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Health Focus Fall 2021

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AUTUMN

Health

2021

A publication for the FEP members

of the Arkansas Blue Cross and

Blue Shield family of companies

PAGE 4

Maternal health

is your right

PAGE 6

Connections

matter to your

mental health

PAGE 7

Follow these

steps to reduce

your risk of falling


Should telehealth

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.

2

Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021


COVID-19 precautions

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.

Reduced immunity?

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

vaccine work?

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

healthcare provider.

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


Maternal health

is your right

Be curious,

informed and

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.

4

Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021


Healthy moms contribute to the health of their

babies before, during and after pregnancy!

Be curious

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.

Be informed

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.

Be vocal

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.

DEFINITIONS:

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:

Anger

Anxiety

Frustration

Isolation

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.

6

*PLOS Medicine, Social Relationships and Mortality Risk, 2010


y

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

• Antidepressants

• Antipsychotics

• Blood pressure prescriptions

• Muscle relaxants

• Opioids

• 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

different medication.

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

medical conditions.

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,

PharmD candidate.

Health FOCUS // AUTUMN 2021 7


Information in this newsletter is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment

Health

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!

CUSTOMER SERVICE

800-482-6655

MENTAL HEALTH / SUBSTANCE ABUSE

800-367-0406

PREGNANCY PROGRAM

800-225-1891 (ext. 20225)

TELEHEALTH SERVICES

855-636-1579

CARE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

• Asthma • Diabetes

• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

• Congestive Heart Failure • Coronary Artery Disease

800-285-6652

MEDICATION THERAPY MANAGEMENT

PROGRAM LED BY A PHARMACIST

501-378-2923

You can also visit our website at fepblue.org for more information

and to learn about your health and pharmacy benefits.

00004.02.01.1121

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