A publication for the FEP members
of the Arkansas Blue Cross and
Blue Shield family of companies
is your right
matter to your
steps to reduce
your risk of falling
be on your radar?
It’s quality care that can save you time and money
Now that more Americans are receiving COVID-19 vaccines, people are scheduling doctor appointments
again because they feel safer doing so. However, if a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t on your radar just yet,
maybe a telehealth visit should be. You can still see your provider through a telehealth visit for some basic
health concerns. Telehealth visits are effective, personal, private, safe, and can save you time and money.
Telehealth is effective. For some patients, telehealth
or video visits can be as effective as in-person visits.
In a 2019 hospital study, 83% * of patients said the
quality of their telehealth visit was just as good or
better than an in-person visit. One reason given is
that patients feel more relaxed talking to a doctor in
their setting than in the provider’s office.
Telehealth is personal. Patients may spend more
time talking with their providers during a telehealth
visit than an in-person visit. They report feeling less
rushed. Some new rules require a 20-minute minimum
visit for provider reimbursement.
Telehealth is private. The federal HIPAA law that
protects sensitive patient information remains in
effect during the use of telehealth services. Other
requirements are also in place to keep your
sensitive information private.
*Massachusetts General Hospital Telehealth Survey
Telehealth is safe. Through a telehealth visit with
your doctor, you can avoid the waiting room. That
means you will not expose others or yourself to
diseases, viruses, etc.
Telehealth can save you time. When childcare or
transportation issues tie up your schedule, you can
still see your provider through a telehealth visit via
your laptop, phone, or tablet. You can even get your
prescriptions refilled during a telehealth visit or
discuss test results with your provider.
Telehealth can save you money. Depending on your
health plan benefits, telehealth visits often cost less
than in-office visits.
Your health plan partners with Teladoc ® , the largest
telehealth provider in the world, to make it easier for
you to get effective and safe medical care anytime
and anywhere. To learn more, call FEP customer
service at 800-482-6655.
Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021
slowed the flu last year
This year could be bad
With so many of us masking, sanitizing and social distancing to help prevent the
spread of COVID-19, influenza activity last year was unusually low as a result,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although
it might sound hard to believe, there were approximately 2,000 (two-thousand)
flu cases recorded during the 2020-2021 season compared to 32 million during 2019-
2020, according to CDC data. In addition, the CDC documented one pediatric flu death
last season. The season prior, there were 199 pediatric deaths recorded.
That’s excellent news... for then. However, now healthcare experts are bracing for a
challenging 2021-2022 flu season. But why? We may have some reduced immunity in the
population. So, they are urging every eligible individual to get a flu vaccine this year.
When we encounter the flu virus,
it challenges our immune systems
to build antibodies for defense.
Some immune systems manage that
challenge better than others. When
the population’s exposure to the flu
virus diminishes, immunity against
the virus also diminishes. That’s
because there are fewer challenges
or opportunities to build antibodies.
This is what experts call reduced
immunity. When we experience
reduced immunity in one flu season,
it’s harder to fight the flu virus
the following season, potentially
increasing the number of flu
outbreaks and the severity. Reduced
immunity is an added concern as
COVID restrictions lessen.
How does the flu
Flu vaccines contain inactive
strains of the virus. Our bodies
identify the inactive virus as an
invader and fight it. When our
immune system encounters the
actual virus, it remembers the
inactive virus and protects us
against the active threat.
Having a stronger immune system
against one strain of a virus helps
us better fight other strains of it.
Who should and
should not get
the flu shot?
According to the CDC, children
younger than six months old,
people with severe allergies to
any ingredient in a flu vaccine, and
anyone who’s ever had a severe
allergic reaction to the flu vaccines
should not get the shot. If you have
an allergy to egg protein, have ever
had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or if
you’re not feeling well, talk to your
provider first before getting the
vaccine. Everyone else is eligible.
However, if you believe your
circumstance is unique, share your
concerns and questions with your
Individuals with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are more
vulnerable to influenza than others. Children under five years old are especially vulnerable to severe
complications if they catch the flu. Greater vaccination numbers mean better protection for everyone.
If you need to schedule a flu shot, make an appointment with your healthcare provider today.
Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021 3
is your right
vocal for yourself
and your baby
Who hasn’t oohed and aahed at the
sight of a mother and her newborn?
They so sweetly embody an irresistible
mystery and promise of life. However,
in the United States, women struggle
harder than their counterparts in
other wealthy nations to have healthy
pregnancy outcomes. Sadly, black,
brown, and indigenous women
experience even worse rates of maternal
morbidity and mortality than white
women. That’s why it’s vitally important
to encourage, empower and remind all
women to be curious, informed, and
vocal about their maternal health.
According to the U.S. Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services, the
United States spends approximately
$11,000 on healthcare per person
annually, more than any country in the
world. Still, that investment hasn’t
reduced our nation’s maternal mortality
rate, which has steadily increased over
the past 10 years. In other wealthy
countries like Denmark, Finland, France,
and Italy the rate continues to decline.
Reasons for this troubling paradox in
the United States include inconsistent
obstetrics (prenatal, pregnancy,
and postnatal) practices and
increased chronic health conditions
like diabetes, heart disease, and
hypertension among women. Ethnic
minority populations, particularly
African American women, experience
structural racism expressed as racial
bias from healthcare providers, lowquality
medical care based on where
they live and receive treatment, etc.
Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021
Healthy moms contribute to the health of their
babies before, during and after pregnancy!
Don’t hesitate to ask your OBGYN about her background, education, and experience.
Ask her how many babies she’s delivered. Under what conditions would she consider
your pregnancy high-risk? Ask how long her care team has worked together, etc.
Study the care team’s resources and let them know when you don’t understand
instructions and requirements. If the information they give you seems to conflict
with the information you are reading on your own, ask them about it.
When you’re in pain or feel uneasy, say so and continue expressing how
you feel until your provider addresses your concerns to your satisfaction.
Having a baby is demanding enough, so it’s essential to have a support system
of family and friends in your corner to help you remain encouraged, focused, and
vigilant. Want extra support? Your Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan
has a Special Delivery program that works with expectant mothers to obtain and
utilize comprehensive prenatal care. To learn more visit arkansasbluecross.com/
specialdelivery or call 800-225-1891 ext. 20225, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Maternal morbidity is a range of
health problems like blood clots,
depression, diabetes, etc. that are
related to a woman’s pregnancy
before, during, and after birth.
Maternal mortality often includes
blood pressure disorders,
complications of labor and delivery,
infections, severe bleeding and other
causes of pregnancy-related deaths.
Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021 5
Connections are vital to mental and physical health
There’s help if you’re feeling lonely or depressed
Our connections to other people impact our mental and physical
health. In a review of more than 300,000 * participants across
148 studies, researchers discovered a link between positive
social relationships and good mental health, lower death rates,
and better general health outcomes.
When we’re lonely or depressed, it affects our appetite, concentration,
energy levels, sleep and our self-esteem. Use of alcohol, drugs, and other
addictions increase. If you’re feeling lonely or depressed, it’s a serious
matter and there’s real help available to you.
When it’s loneliness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some
helpful evidence-based advice.
When it’s depression
Depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association,
is “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects
how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” Depression symptoms
can range from mild to severe and can include:
Start a conversation. Call, text-message, or video chat with
co-workers, family, friends, or neighbors. You can even write a
letter or send a postcard – imagine that! It doesn’t have to be
lengthy, but intentional and sincere.
Practice self-care and self-compassion. Be gentle and kind
to yourself. Take time for yourself. Exercise, learn a new skill,
listen to music, read. Acknowledge your successes, large and
small. Cut yourself some slack – you’re doing the best you can.
Try volunteering to provide support in your community.
Many organizations offer volunteer opportunities that can
give you the chance to contribute to causes or missions
that are exciting and important to you.
Seek help from a professional. Talk to your healthcare
provider about how you feel, or contact your company’s
employee assistance program for support.
Lack of energy
Too much or too little sleep, etc.
Loss of interest in activities that
ordinarily bring joy and pleasure
New Directions is your behavioral health provider. A licensed professional
is a phone call away. That means you never have to face depression
alone and your sessions are strictly confidential. They will treat you
with compassion. Call New Directions at 877-210-6822 or visit their
website at ndbh.com to schedule an appointment.
*PLOS Medicine, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk, 2010
Aaron Brown, Pharm.D.
Clinical Pharmacist, FEP
Medication Therapy Management
Enjoy autumn and winter,
minus the fall
Follow these steps to reduce your risks
Autumn leaves on the ground and
ice in the winter can increase
your risk of falling, as do certain
medications, unsuspecting items
in our homes, and being over 65.
In fact, more than 25% of older
individuals experience falls,
according to a recent report from
the National Council on Aging. Falls
can lead to broken bones, head
injuries and death. But you can take
steps to protect yourself from the
most common causes of falls.
Consider your medications
Certain medications have fallinducing
side effects like blurred
vision, confusion, dizziness or
drowsiness, which can put you at
risk. These medications include:
• Anticholinergics, like over
the counter antihistamines
• Blood pressure prescriptions
• Muscle relaxants
• Sleep aids
Diabetes medications can lower
your blood sugar which can cause
dizziness. Sleep aids can have
lingering side effects that impair
your thinking. If any of these things
are happening to you, let your
doctor know. They may be able
to lower your dose or prescribe a
Taking several medications can
further increase your risk of falling.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist
to review how your medications
interact and affect you.
Reduce home hazards
Medications aren’t the only thing
to consider. If you’re at home, look
around for potential hazards lurking
in plain sight. Consider these tips:
• Make sure your house is well
lit outside and inside.
• Remove clutter and keep rugs
flat on the floor.
• Keep cords and wires away
from walking paths.
• Use a “reach stick” to get
items off higher shelves.
• Add railings to both sides of
stairs and add grab bars to
your bathtub or shower.
• Be aware of your pet’s
location to avoid tripping.
Take care of yourself
• Get quality sleep; feeling sleepy
increases your risk of falling.
• Talk with your doctor about
bladder control to help
prevent multiple trips to the
restroom at night.
• Stand slowly to ensure you
don’t become dizzy.
• Stay active and mobile to keep
your body agile and limber.
• Talk with your doctor about
foot pain or weakness, and
wear shoes that fit well.
• During your annual eye exam,
share your vision concerns
because your contacts or
glasses may need updating.
• If you’ve fallen recently, tell
your doctor. He may need
to check you for broken
bones, bleeding or underlying
The National Council on Aging
reports about 3 million older
individuals are treated in
emergency rooms for injuries from
falls each year, resulting in more
than 800,000 hospitalizations.
You don’t have to be one of them.
Be proactive by knowing your
medication’s side effects, keeping
your home hazard-free, and
keeping your body healthy.
Co-written by Kaylee Welcher,
Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021 7
Information in this newsletter is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment
Information in this newsletter is not intended
to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment
A publication for the FEP members of the Arkansas
Blue Cross and Blue Shield family of companies
Save these Numbers!
We’re here to help and guide you to a healthier life.
We’re just a phone call away!
MENTAL HEALTH / SUBSTANCE ABUSE
800-225-1891 (ext. 20225)
CARE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS
• Asthma • Diabetes
• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
• Congestive Heart Failure • Coronary Artery Disease
MEDICATION THERAPY MANAGEMENT
PROGRAM LED BY A PHARMACIST
You can also visit our website at fepblue.org for more information
and to learn about your health and pharmacy benefits.