The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has placed a spotlight on the importance of preparedness for everyone living with a chronic condition, from the coordination of large-scale relief efforts to individuals having a plan of action for themselves. For many people living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, or chronic respiratory diseases, a healthcare crisis like COVID-19, can cripple healthcare service delivery, exacerbate a person’s symptoms, and cause a potentially life-threatening disruption of treatment.
Initially, the best plan of action is to prepare, prepare and prepare some more. Because this is not possible for some people, it’s best to have realistic precautions in place if the worst-case scenario happens and you or your loved one runs out of medicine. There are many resources available for general COVID-19 prevention. What we are presenting here are five essential COVID-19 preparation tips unique to people living with chronic illnesses:
- Immediately Refill All Necessary Prescriptions: This may seem obvious but it’s an essential first step and must be done before shortages or delivery issues can affect your access to specialty medications. In many cases, insurance companies will place an automatic override on medications so that people with chronic conditions can be prepared to manage their illness throughout an emergency. We recommend calling your doctor and setting up a treatment plan as soon as possible. They will help set up proactive refills for you. If you fill your prescriptions at a hospital specialty pharmacy, call your specialty pharmacy liaison and s/he can help with all aspects of your insurance, prior authorizations and prescriptions.
- Safe Storage of Medications: Exposure damage such as rain, snow, freezing, excessive heat and contamination can all render various medications ineffective. In order to continue effective care for any chronic condition, it is important to be prepared with precautions such as coolers and ice to keep refrigerated medications cold, waterproof or insulated containers to avoid getting medications wet, or protective storage to prevent contamination of the medication.
- Your Knowledge of Medications: Physicians treating chronic conditions must make sure that you are aware of specific medications, instructions, allergies, and treatment plans in advance of the disruption of care, so that you can relay this information to other providers in the event you are relocated. Providers can also put the start of your treatment plan on hold prior to a disruption in care, but providers must weigh the benefits vs. risks of delaying treatment for your condition.
- Medical Records: The importance of having a back-up hard copy and a digital copy of your medical record and related health information cannot be understated. With this hard copy, a physician unfamiliar with your case will be able to assist you in the best possible way that they can during an emergency. It may also be helpful to wear bracelets or a badge notifying a physician or the public of your condition, medications, adverse reactions, allergies etc., in the event you are not able to communicate or properly care for yourself. A digital copy saved on a smart phone can also be very helpful in a pinch. Both will give physicians and pharmacists proof of active prescriptions. Your local pharmacy or your specialty pharmacist can help with obtaining copies. In addition, carrying copies (paper and digital) of your medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid cards is also advisable, as it may be hard to search if computer systems are down. And finally, proof of residency such as an electricity bill may be needed to re-establish insurance and other assistance when the time comes.
- Connection to Your Community: It may seem difficult while much of the country is in self-quarantine but expanding your circle of connections within your community can be lifesaving in the event of an emergency. Reaching out through online support groups, through your hospital or through social media can ensure that you will have someone who is knowledgeable about your condition and can oversee any care for you in the event they need to advocate for you.
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