How Accredo’s physician engagement team simplifies the experience for prescribers

The team focuses on highly complex medications, including treatments for cancer, neurological diseases, pulmonary conditions, and bleeding disorders.
Doctor talking

Many traditional medications are simple to prescribe, simple to dispense, and simple to administer. Specialty medicines are complex. That’s why Accredo provides individualized support throughout the process.

For patients, Accredo has specialized pharmacists, field nurses, social workers, dietitians, and others who offer one-on-one-help over the phone, online, or in a patient’s home. Doctors and their staffs have different needs, and Accredo has people in place to help them as well.

“Our primary job is to with work with the prescribers,” said Diana Florio, vice president, physician engagement for Accredo, a division of Evernorth Health Services. She works with field patient advocates, whose wide-ranging roles may take them from a doctor’s office to a patient’s home; field-based account executives, who meet in person with providers, their staffs, and patients; and inside sales representatives, who are always available to take a call from prescribers and their staffs.

Her team focuses on highly complex medications, including treatments for cancer, neurological diseases, pulmonary conditions, and bleeding disorders. “Making a difference for a patient is the focus of what we do,” she said.

Field patient advocates: Building relationships with providers and their patients

As a field patient advocate in the physician engagement group, Andy Blackledge describes his role as a hybrid. “We’re able to interact with patients and with prescribers,” he said. His team helps providers with any issues that might arise, such as streamlining the communications process when a referral is needed or getting the office up to speed on Accredo’s powerful provider portal, The portal offers a wealth of functionality, including real-time information on prescription status and the option of live chats. The team also reaches out to new patients to make sure everything is in place for them to fill their prescriptions and educates them about the patient portal and the availability of special services, such as copay assistance.

Blackledge, who has been with Accredo for more than 30 years, specializes in treatments for bleeding disorders. His expertise reflects his years on the job – and his personal history. Blackledge and his twin brother were born with hemophilia A, which affects blood’s ability to clot. Treatment for hemophilia usually involves regular infusions of concentrated blood clotting factor.

“I take my medication twice a week,” he said, “and I play ice hockey a couple of times a week.” He explained that he plays in a recreational league, with far less potential for serious injuries than in professional games. “Because I’ve got the medicine on board, because I infuse twice a week, I’m able to maintain my [blood clotting] factor levels so that if I do get injured, I’m just dealing with injury, rather than having it be an urgent situation because of my hemophilia.”

Andy Blackledge

Andy Blackledge

As a person with hemophilia, he educates new coworkers about the way hemophilia therapies have evolved during his lifetime, which includes his personal – and painful – history. 

“Problems with the medicine in the ’80s actually served as a catalyst to spur even greater research and development, and even better technologies, used to manufacture the medication that has been successful in a whole wide variety of applications of other therapies,” he said. The problems he referenced were the contamination of factor products, which were derived from human plasma, with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C. “Ten thousand in our community were infected with HIV, including myself and my brother,” he said. “Now, there’s probably just over 1,000 of us left alive. My twin brother didn’t make it. He died when we were 19.”

Three years later, Blackledge started working for Accredo. “That spurred my career path in terms of advocating for our community and advocating for their medical needs,” he said. 

As a person with hemophilia, he can connect on a deep and long-term level with patients and their parents. Most patients are diagnosed at a very young age. “I’ve got patients that I can remember delivering their first order 25 years ago, and they’re adults now,” he said.

Account executives: Sharing expertise to help maximize patient care

Matthew Phelps, a director on the account executive team, has deep knowledge of current and upcoming therapies for blood disorders, including hemophilia, and rare diseases. His work brings him to treatment centers and hospitals throughout the Southeastern United States, and his experiences during his 10-year tenure shapes how he spends his free time. 

Matthew Phelps

Matthew Phelps

As part of his work, he connects with families who have one or more children with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a progressive genetic disease that can be debilitating, even fatal.  On his own time, he volunteers and raises funds for the Cure SMA foundation. “I do a charity walk for a lot of children in the local SMA community,” he said. “They’re in wheelchairs, with their parents, and we walk 3 or 4 miles and raise money. I’m a volunteer, but I have an Accredo or Evernorth T-shirt on and I’m representing Accredo with my presence.” 

SMA is a rare disease, and many of the physicians he meets have never seen another patient with it. “I talk to them about what to expect, what the approval process [for the prescribed medication] looks like, and how we’re going to coordinate that,” Phelps said. “I’m working with their supporting staff on things like getting them set up on Accredo’s digital portal and our various services and tools.”

He’s seen an evolution in diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes in SMA treatment. As of this year, every state requires that children born in hospitals be screened for SMA. Before those mandates, an SMA diagnosis depended on a parent or pediatrician realizing that the child wasn’t hitting developmental marks. As a result, SMA might not be identified until the child was 2, 3, or even 4 years old, he said. “That’s why they’re in wheelchairs – so much damage had already occurred.” 

Recently, Phelps and Florio were working at an SMA conference when a mother and her two children approached their booth. The 5-year-old girl was pushing her 9-year-old brother in his wheelchair. Phelps asked if the family was familiar with Accredo. “The mom said, ‘Oh yes, we get all our medications through Accredo.’” He asked about their experience and she praised the option to communicate via text messages. “Then she said: ‘It’s so nice to do that for both of our kids.’” 

To his surprise, both children had type 1 SMA. The little girl – who showed no symptoms – had been diagnosed at birth. Her older brother had been diagnosed at age 5. “She started treatment on day 1, and he started at age 5,” Phelps said. “That is not a unique story, but being there was really something.”

Inside sales representatives: Making the prescription process seamless

The inside sales team offers personalized – and customized – services to providers and their staffs. “We become a resource for these offices, and in turn for the patients as well,” said Kristen Shadley, a senior advisor on the team. “Our team watches a prescription from start to finish. We’re making sure it’s a seamless process.”

Kristen Shadley

Kristen Shadley

Her team can share a wealth of information to streamline the prescribing process, including information about what pharmacies are in network for a particular patient and other factors doctors need to know before ordering a prescription. “We’re kind of a jack of all trades,” she said, always watching for potential problems that might cause an issue.

Shadley’s team works in tandem with account executives, who make personal visits to prescribers’ offices. “We pride ourselves on building relationships with the offices,” she said. “We become a resource for these offices, and in turn for the patients as well. This group is motivated by wanting to make a difference in patients’ lives.” 

The providers they work with take note. Shadley shared a recent email from a nurse at an oncology practice in Maine praising Lauren Derrick, a member of Shadley’s team. Describing Derrick as one of her practice’s most valuable resources, the nurse credited Derrick for shortening the time needed to fill or refill prescriptions, which has greatly improved patient outcomes.

“I would like to recognize specifically Lauren’s GREAT efforts to assist us over the last few weeks,” she wrote in mid-January. “As we know, the new year brings along its own special challenges due to changes in insurance policies, deductibles, and prior authorizations. We have had an incredibly demanding start to this year and Lauren has met our every need with above-and-beyond professionalism, excellence, and proficiency. She is clear with her communication; she is lightning fast with her responses and works collaboratively to solve problems in order to get our patients their often life-saving medications. She is empathetic and incredibly dedicated. We consider her a true asset to our team.”

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