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Perspectives

You Don’t Join Us; We Join You

2018-03-14


The success of a new healthcare business model means offering features, functionality and value that consumers find indispensable — delivered by Aetna Health.

Not too long ago, most of us didn’t have electronic navigation in our cars. We’d unfold a map or ask a gas station attendant for directions. Now, we won’t get in our cars for even short trips without activating some form of GPS capability or launching an app telling us which lane to be in to get off at the correct exit. Many of us wonder how we lived without those apps.

That’s the same level of experience and reliability we strive to deliver to our members at Aetna Health with our health and wellness management platform.  It’s our challenge, and our opportunity, to build solutions for needs and desires our members can’t quite articulate yet — just like we didn’t know we needed maps on our phones. Our hope is to create tools, especially a new mobile app, that members will use as frequently and effortlessly as they do their digital maps, music and social media apps. 

We will reach this goal in phases, and as we hit our milestones, we’ll also help our parent company, Aetna, transform from a health insurer to a wellness company. Technologies such as analytics and Internet of Things (IoT), as well as our engagement strategies, will help us meet our members where they are and deliver just what they need, whether it’s sending a reminder to refill their prescription when they walk into a pharmacy or issuing a reward for reaching 10,000 steps. Our ultimate goal is to significantly reduce healthcare costs by helping our members get and stay healthy through our effective care and wellness tools (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 

Integrating the Mobile Experience into Members’ Daily Lives

We engage our members through our Aetna Health platform, which delivers personalized health advice, health tools and trackers, and the ability to connect their fitness and medical devices and communicate with coaches. 

Our CareEngine platform powers the personalized insights offered by Aetna Health. CareEngine digests lagging and real-time data from medical claims, doctor’s office visits and medical adherence, such as whether a member fills or refills a prescription. Members can also share data about their daily activities through various wearable and in-home devices. 

Using thousands of clinical rules and analytics, the CareEngine platform sorts members into appropriate health management programs so they get the right support at the right time. Our programs include lifestyle and wellness coaching, as well as management for chronic diseases like diabetes.

CareEngine continually generates member-specific insights, such as “Care Considerations,” personalized health alerts sent to members and their care managers and health coaches. The platform also generates daily worklists for our 3,000 care managers so they can personally follow up with members by phone or e-mail (see Quick Take, below). 

Actively Managing Member Health with a Human Touch

At Aetna, we use a lot of technology to help members meet their health goals. Our CareEngine platform stratifies high-risk members, identifies the best health management programs for them, and personalizes the information they see on the care and wellness platform. Members can upload their own data from a fitness band or home health device to earn incentives. We offer multiple communication channels to support member preferences. 

Yet to help members incorporate healthier behaviors into their lifestyle, we must uncover their motivations for improving their health, help them understand what they can do to reach their goals and identify the best way to encourage them to act. Our care manager-coaches build a rapport with individual members to understand these factors on a personal level. 

Coaches seek to learn more about what’s driving individual members to change their behaviors, such as staying in shape to live longer so they can see their grandchildren grow up. Understanding members’ motivations helps the coach add a human touch to the individualized information and analysis that CareEngine provides. Coaches can understand members’ personalities and stress points in ways even the best analytics can’t. 

Coaches and members can check in daily via phone, e-mail and the Aetna Health Care and Wellness platform. Our technology provides information and insights to augment the encouragement and support coaches provide. As a result, members tell us, “I never feel alone,” as they work toward a goal or manage a chronic condition or rehab an injury. The human touch is a key factor in keeping our members healthy.

Aetna Health Experience

Our member credo is “you don’t join us; we join you” — and that means serving members through their smartphones. As our clients see a growing reliance among their employees on their phones, they’re asking for mobile health management and wellness tools. While our members can access the Aetna Health Care and Wellness platform online, we wanted to rethink how engagement could be delivered through mobile.

The Aetna Health mobile app focuses on the end-to-end experience because it signals a radical shift in how we can engage members and make our services a constant in their lives. After conducting extensive research and focus groups to find out what members wanted, we determined that the app would initially offer recommended health actions, coach messages, digital coaching, and health assessments and incentives, all personalized for individual members. 

Although it doesn’t sound revolutionary, we had to focus a lot of energy on ease of use and the member’s experience with the tool. We addressed these questions from a member’s perspective: 

  • How does it connect with my life?

  • How will it always be available to me?

  • How does it stay smart about me to tell me what to do?

  • How does it track all data associated with me that I am willing to share?

  • How do I customize it to make it more personal to me?

  • How do I use it to get to a real outcome?

  • What is my overall end-to-end experience? 

We take our “you don’t join us; we join you” credo literally with our mobile app. Through the app, we want to issue offers and reminders that make sense in the context of where individual members are and what they’re doing. If the app knows a member is in a pharmacy, that’s a great time to send a prescription refill reminder. One challenge will be keeping the app integrated with the web platform; another will be achieving the right balance between the app’s proactive offerings and its responsiveness to members. 

We can incorporate dozens of fitness wearables and other devices into CareEngine to power the Aetna Health app. Because Aetna partners with Apple, we are also tightly integrated with Apple devices and can create features that span that company’s devices and capabilities to engage our members.

In tandem with the digital mechanics of an engagement experience, we continuously refine how to help members effectively engage with care managers to meet personal goals, such as remembering to regularly take medicine for a chronic disease or meeting weight loss and fitness targets. Cognizant works with us on a variety of key member-facing systems and business processes, including rewards and incentives customized for our members. One person may be willing to walk an extra thousand steps for a gift card; another may prefer to accumulate “hearts” or points in a competition with other members; and another may just want help organizing goals so there’s some activity she can accomplish every day.

We must personalize member experiences because different age groups have different needs. A relatively healthy 20-year-old may want fitness and wellness tips, while a 50-year-old with a chronic health condition is likely to be more concerned about receiving medical advice or what to do if they forgot to take their medicine. Again, it’s about us addressing member needs within the context of where they are emotionally and physically.

The Bottom Line

With our app and engagement strategies, Aetna Health is positioned to meet our clients’ health management needs. Employers and health plans expect population and care management services to ensure they have healthier employees and members who won’t need expensive health services or who use fewer services because we help them manage their conditions effectively. 

Similarly, Aetna realized we must do things dramatically differently to successfully transition from a health insurer to a wellness company. That’s our response to the healthcare industry’s changing reimbursement and value models, which will reward quality of care over quantity. In that world, we have to find better ways to engage members than handing them a clipboard and pen at the doctor’s office.

That’s a huge mind and cultural shift. Aetna Health is a differentiator for Aetna, a technology enablement tool that signals to our clients and the industry that we need to work together to find new ways of improving care.

As we and Aetna continue to evolve toward serving consumers, we’ll need to continue investing in delivering best-in-class service advocacy. Meeting our members where they are means recognizing they have many needs that affect their ability to manage their health conditions. 

How will we measure the success of our Aetna Health platform in such a complex world?  We measure healthy days, the adoption rate for our services and, most importantly, whether adoption impacts medical costs. Coming full circle, our ability to engage members and keep them engaged will likely affect adoption rates. 

We’ll continue to push the adoption curve, prove the concept and work with partners to create and sustain members’ motivation to use the app. We will focus on the experience to make sure the app remains easy and simple to use. 

Our nirvana would be for members to use the app on their home screen, just like texting and e-mail or their favorite navigation app, blending it right into their lifestyles. When we hear our members ask, “How did we ever live without this?” we’ll count that as one more major measure of success.

Author

Steve Roberts leads an Aetna Health technology center of excellence as Head of Population Health-IT that builds and maintains consumer, provider, government and multi-payer software solutions focused on our health and wellness platform. The center of excellence includes development, architecture, business analysts, quality assurance, and support and operations for Active Health Management (AHM), providing actionable insights, meaningful engagement and comprehensive care management. Steve has been with Aetna since 2013. 

With more than 20 years of experience in healthcare IT, Steve has held senior executive positions within Henry Schein, Allscripts, GE Healthcare and McKesson. He holds a degree in business administration from Augustana College and an MBA from Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management. Steve can be reached at RobertsS5@Aetna.com  |  www.linkedin.com/in/stevenmroberts/.  

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You Don’t Join Us; We Join You