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A pharmacist by training, Joel Helle is Vice President of Physician Services at CVS Specialty, where he’s building a world-class experience for patients facing serious illness. Helle believes that everyone—no matter where you live or who you are—should have access to life-changing treatment.

“Where is it?” patients ask, as Joel Helle explains on the fourth episode of our podcast, "There's a Better Way: Smart Talk on Healthcare and Technology."

Patients ask this about their specialty medications after they’ve been diagnosed with a serious acute or chronic condition. They’re in pain, they’re worried, and they want to get started on treatment as soon as possible. Just the words “specialty pharmacy” can sound scary, Helle says, and then comes the waiting.

Getting patients to therapy—and connecting with them throughout the prescribing and fulfillment journey—is Helle’s top priority at CVS Specialty.

This leads us to a major theme in this episode: innovation.

“I think the biggest innovation in specialty is digital,” Helle says. “We have a digital connection through texts, through an app, to the doctor’s office. That’s what’s really going to make specialty easier, quicker, faster.”

Another major theme is about connecting the dots on access to care.

The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on how social determinants of health like race, gender and income level can contribute to poorer health outcomes. Can the patient afford an HIV test in the first place, for example? Not all can.

CVS and a partner recently sponsored free HIV tests in five underserved communities for two weeks in June, to coincide with National HIV Testing Day on June 27. Helle points out that CVS is just one organization, but it’s a big one, and can help “make a dent.”

“I want to be part of the solution,” Helle says, “to make sure that regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of where you live, regardless of who you love, that everyone has the same access to care.”

To hear how Joel Helle is building a world-class experience for patients and prescribers, listen to the fourth episode of our podcast, “There’s a Better Way: Smart Talk on Healthcare and Technology,” and subscribe to catch all episodes.

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