Last Friday, Mark Bertolini, the Chairman, President and CEO of Aetna Inc., was on CNBC Squawk Box explaining Aetna’s innovative approach to dealing with health plan members who have chronic diseases. Bertolini said: for those with chronic disease we use “ high tech / high touch”.
An example of high tech is blue tooth technology built into a bathroom scale, so when a patient weighs him or herself that data goes to Aetna. If there is rapid weight gain, Aetna dispatches a nurse to the home to see if the patient has stopped taking their meds.
The President of Cleveland Clinic who was also on the show at that time, agreed with the importance of “high touch” – sending a nurse to see the health care member.
Aetna has realized the importance of having a person – meet face to face periodically with a member who is dealing with a long term health issue. Although their model is still based on pharmaceuticals (drugs) to manage disease, the recognition that technology alone can’t sustain health is an encouraging sign.
The next big step for Aetna and other major health care providers is to broaden health care choices to include spiritual care. In today’s Huffington Post Health “Spirituality Linked with Mental Health Benefits” relates encouraging findings of a recent study reported in Religion and Health. “With increased spirituality people reduce their sense of self and feel a greater sense of oneness and connectedness with the rest of the universe,” study researcher Dan Cohen, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, said in a statement.
I recently met with the owners of a rapidly growing health claims service who are finding great interest from traditional and alternative health providers in offering patients choices of health care treatment beyond just drugs and surgery.
As the costs of providing health care through the current delivery systems in the U.S. continues to escalate, private insurers may have the greatest incentive to control cost by offering more “high touch” in a form the patient chooses.