Monday, June 23, 2014

UHC & Sickle Cell Disease Association launch new support program

A sharp, sudden pain awakens you from a deep sleep.  As you gather your senses you begin to realize the pain is in your leg.  It strikes again, and this time it takes your breath away—like a sharp serrated knife twisting slowly. Again and again, constant stabbing as you try to convince yourself that this is not happening, you experience another surge of pain, and then another. You call 911 and an ambulance comes to rush you to the hospital.  This scenario is one that Dr. Marjorie Dejoie, medical director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s Philadelphia/Delaware Valley Chapter and a sickle cell patient described when we met to discuss how UnitedHealthcare might better support UnitedHealthcare members who live with this disease.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a global health issue; the World Health Organization calls it a public health priority. SCD primarily affects African Americans, occurring in one out of every 500 African-American births. 

June 19th was World Sickle Cell Day, a day not only to raise awareness of SCD, but also to act as community to fight this truly awful disease. And Philadelphia did its part, as many Philadelphians participated in a blood drive at the Park West Town Center. SCD patients often need blood transfusions, so the blood drive was a big help to local efforts to fight the disease. The event was hosted by the Philadelphia/Delaware chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), which also provided free blood pressure screenings, “True Age” assessments and free passes to local gyms were also available.

The blood drive was part of UnitedHealthcare and the SCDAA Philadelphia/Delaware Valley chapter’s much larger effort to create a care management program for people with SCD living in Southeast and Northeast Philadelphia and enrolled in UnitedHealthcare Medicaid plans.

The Sickle Cell Disease Care Management Program – the first of its kind in Pennsylvania – aims to improve patient health, eliminate gaps in care and reduce the need for emergency care for patients with SCD. 

UnitedHealthcare specialized care management team members will work with patients one-on-one to discuss the patients’ psychosocial needs, help them follow the prescribed treatment and connect them with appropriate care resources.  The team will also help to educate patients about SCD and work to eliminate any gaps in care.

SCD is a genetic disorder that causes long strands of hemoglobin to form within some red blood cells, forcing the cell into a sickle shape.  Besides having to live with sometimes excruciating pain, persons with sickle cell disease are much more prone to contract severe, sometimes life-threatening, infections. 

Our SCD Care Management Program will focus on patients prescribed the only available disease-modifying treatment for SCD, a drug called hydroxyurea.  Hydroxyurea works by increasing the levels of fetal hemoglobin in red blood cells, which promotes the production of healthy red blood cells and decreases the likelihood of sickle cell disease complications.

The result of our Sickle Cell Disease Care Management Program will be healthier SCD patients, fewer hospitalizations and lower overall health care costs for the community.

Team members from the SCDAA helped out at the Blood Drive on June 19th to celebrate World Sickle Cell Day in Philly! 

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