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5 ways Aetna International is embracing the health care revolution

The world is changing. Populations are ageing, chronic conditions are worsening, the digital age is maturing, and consumer demand is on the rise.

The question is: how is the health care industry responding, and how is this benefitting people and health care systems alike?  

Vive la revolution!

A remarkable transformation is happening in health care. The very notion of what health care is and can do for people, is changing. ‘Sick care’ — which tackles the symptoms of illness — is changing to ‘well care’ — which keeps people healthy.

  • Passive patients are becoming engaged health care consumers.
  • Payers and providers are becoming active health and well-being partners.
  • Medicine is moving away from best-selling drugs to precision medicine.
  • Governments are becoming champions of digital and virtual health.
  • Once fragmented health care systems are becoming joined-up.

Why now?

This is happening now, partly because of the world’s growing middle class (particularly across the Middle East and Asia). We are seeing a worldwide increase in lifestyle-related diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, populations are ageing, and demand for care is outstripping supply. It’s unsustainable and something must change.

In addition, the advent of inexpensive consumer health care tech, such as wearable fitness trackers, the Internet of Things and strides in the storage and protection of digital data are providing solutions to consumer demands for real-time, personalised care.

What’s changing?

Health benefits companies, health insurance companies and health care providers are starting to deliver preventative measures, precision intervention and health outcomes that address lifestyle choices, social and environmental influences and genetic coding. This means that people are starting to derive real value from their health care experiences and health data.

In this article, we outline the path to health care that provides more years free from disease, improved lifespans and eases the pressures on health care systems. 

Listen to Dr Anushka Patchava, Proposition & Strategy Lead, vHealth, discussing health care trends for 2020 below. 

Aetna’s approach: affordability, accessibility, quality

At Aetna International, we are developing solutions to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of care for employers and their international employees as well as individuals and their families

By promoting innovative and connected care solutions that deliver the best possible health outcomes, we are also combatting the current toll on population health and global economies. The vision is one of a hyper-personalised digital health management service that listens and responds to individuals’ needs over time by connecting them to the care and guidance they need. 

Our vision is built on recognising five fundamental truths:

  1. People’s health care needs and circumstances are unique and complex.
  2. Health or treatment journeys need to be personalised and simple.
  3. There is tremendous value in using people’s data to help deliver their best health outcomes. 
  4. People need convenient, real-time access to care and support no matter where they are in the world.
  5. Health care consumers need help understanding clinical and administrative decisions.

This is how and why we build these principles into our business:

Truth #1: People are unique

We recognise that people’s needs and circumstances are unique and complex

The key to providing personalised prevention, early intervention and condition management for people is to take a holistic view of people’s health — where they live, their family history, their health data, their lifestyle and circumstances — and to couple that with their health goals. The result is health care advice and support based on their unique circumstances.

At Aetna, we believe that health benefits companies and health care providers must have an open-door policy that enables people to address any health concerns they may have. It’s critical to build direct relationships with people to better understand their background and goals to drive participation in and advocacy for their own health.

People need guidance and support to navigate care and health advice

Someone who advocates for the best care to give you the best possible health outcome.

Our members are at the heart of their own health care journey, which they can leverage and manage through a personalised digital ecosystem. The gateway to this ecosystem is found in our online member area — called Health Hub — which enables people to:

  • Access real-time care, either through our virtual care — vHealth by Aetna — app or through one of our international health care partners (subject to plan inclusion and regional availability). The Health Hub provider directory enables people to find quality care when and where they need it.
  • Connect with international and local health and wellness services to help them prevent or manage conditions.
  • View their insurance plan documents.
  • Manage their insurance claims.

We are also working on enabling members to gauge their current health age and wellness levels by completing an interactive health survey in less than five minutes. From there they will receive a personalised health report with tips and guidance on how to improve or maintain their health. This will be available to members on certain plans before becoming widely available.

We’re also working on a personalised health dashboard which will bring together all the data that members upload, helping them make sense of it.

Aetna’s answer


Watch our video about Health Hub, our secure member website that helps people manage their health and wellbeing by allowing them to access important health information wherever they are. Health Hub also allows members to find a doctor, view plan details and get health questions answered.

Truth #2: Health care journeys must be personalised

We understand that each proposed health or treatment journey needs to be personalised and simple

To provide people with bespoke, high-quality health care solutions that meet their needs exactly and results in the best outcome, the emphasis must increasingly be placed on connecting the different players in the health care industry. Everyone, from primary care practitioners and specialists to analysts of health data, insurance claims payers and health and well-being guidance services providers, must collaborate to provide and interpret accurate medical information about the patient.

This approach enables prevention and intervention strategies to be mapped to the unique needs of an individual, with the intention of keeping them healthy. It also means that those who are ill can be routed to the best specialists to receive quality diagnosis and treatment in a timely manner. At every stage of the journey, health care professionals must support individuals to help them understand their health care journey, and to help them make the choices that best align with their health goals. People deserve the support of health care professionals who can advocate for them.

At Aetna, for example, we use connected technology and clinical algorithms to identify who our sickest consumers are today, and we use predictive modelling to identify who our sickest consumers will be tomorrow. Mining both personal and anonymised population data, we can create meaningful, actionable and personalised strategies to help keep people well. Through experience, we have found that the more personalised the care, the more people engage in and advocate for their own health.

Aetna’s answer


We see the benefits of delivering access to an integrated health care system through a virtual interface to make it simple and personalised. That’s why we developed our own virtual health care service, vHealth. Watch our video to learn more about virtual health and how it allows members to access health care wherever they are, whenever they need.

Truth #3: Data is powerful

We see the value in using people’s data to deliver their best health outcomes  

Whether it’s DNA sequencing, fitness tracker monitoring or test results, health care is awash in data. The skill is to interpret it in a way that helps people get value out of it. This is one of the most important pillars of the health care revolution — and its fundamental to Aetna’s approach. Aetna aims to use members’ data to help them, by defining future interactions via the ‘give-get’ model of data exchange. And, by keeping all a member’s data in one place we will be able to use the combination to help better outcomes. Members also trust Aetna International with their health data because they know we will use it to help them get healthy and stay healthy.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has received a lot of press in the last few years with news of connected fridges and editorials painting dystopian and utopian pictures of our connected future. While many innovations have yet to reach us, devices like smartphones (many of which can send and receive health data) and fitness trackers are on the rise.

By one measure, worldwide spending on IoT technology stood at $157 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $457 billion by 2020, a nearly threefold increase. Health care represents a relatively small piece of that pie, but it’s growing; in fact, health care IoT spending is expected to reach $117 billion in 2020 (roughly matching IoT spending by governments).

The most common IoT devices in health care are wearables like the Fitbit, which track everything from steps taken to hours slept. But IoT offers many more possibilities, including virtual health, which improves access, diagnosis, treatment and condition management. Such offerings can benefit expats and globally mobile individuals that companies like Aetna International serve, but they can also benefit people who have mobility issues or simply don’t want to visit a doctor’s office at the height of ‘flu season.

Wearables allow for the easy, automatic collection of health data. They’re best known for measuring steps taken and minutes spent exercising, but increasingly they’re doing more than just amass information. Newer Fitbits, for example, nudge users if they’ve been sedentary for too long — and those gentle prods can make a difference. When the company looked at data for people who were getting six reminders to move in a day it found they received 40 percent fewer reminders to move after a few months. “That’s a very detailed example, but I feel like it’s such an important one, because it means the user’s innate behaviour is changing,” Vice President of Research Shelton Yuen told Wired magazine. Wearables offer so much potential that some health insurers offer them free or at a discount as incentives to increase physical activity amongst members.

Everyone’s health goals are different

People’s health goals are very personal as everyone has an idea of the life they want to lead. Whether it’s managing the symptoms of a genetic condition or to return to living a life free from pain or living into old age free from non-communicable diseases. At Aetna, we recognise our members as individuals and put the member — not their claim or policy number — at the centre of the conversation.

Health care journeys that are driven by the best health outcomes.

Aetna’s answer


Aetna use members’ health data to drive positive outcomes. Our In Touch Care service offers both personalised on-call and online support to access expertise in a flexible way that suits you.

From one-on-one help from a registered nurse to online tools and coaching, people can learn to manage the symptoms of acute or chronic health conditions, adopt new lifestyle behaviours, get customized action plans, navigate the health care system and more.

Read more about Aetna In Touch Care.

Truth #4: Health care must be convenient: wherever, whenever

We recognise that people need convenient, real-time access to care and support no matter where they are in the world

It’s no surprise that individuals increasingly consider themselves to be active consumers instead of passive patients. They like how technology has transformed shopping and banking, and they want similar service from the health care system. They also wonder why the health care industry still requires them to transact in the same way it has for the last 40 years.

Providers must also use digital technology to deliver the on-demand services people expect, such as virtual care, which is available at any time of day or night anywhere in the world. Through Aetna’s own virtual health product, vHealth, members can access real-time diagnosis, prescriptions and care from a family doctor (also known as a general practitioner) via telephone or computer consultation, and then triaged to secondary care with a specialist if needed.

All of these developments, of course, have the potential to hugely disrupt the health care system, just as digital technology has upended the music, retail, newspaper and taxi businesses. Estonia’s Madis Tiik predicts drastic change in the foreseeable future. “Doctors and nurses will have the role of doing regular check-ups, giving recommendations — and this too can be done virtually,” he says. “If used right, technology can deal with about 80 percent of health-related issues and perhaps 20 percent will remain in the domain of traditional medical care in the future.”

While we enable people to make their own decisions, for example by finding local health care where they live or need it, we also offer support through other digital means. For example, social media and mobile phone connectivity have the potential to be a positive force for change; the key is harnessing their global popularity to reach individuals during daily life and help them make better health choices. By utilising connected technology — text messaging, email, webinars and social media networks — we encourage people to modify their behaviours and make healthier choices.

Aetna’s answer


Access to care whenever and wherever, is a core goal and our services reflect this, from the CARE team who offer emergency clinical support, to our culture and security experts who can evacuate people from the stickiest of situations.


The CARE team liaises with members and coordinates the activities of internal staff and care programmes, and external agencies, including hospitals, pharmacies and airlines, to support the treatment needs of members. Read more here.


As well as evacuations, our expert security teams can offer personalised safety advice for those with dangerous jobs living in vulnerable locations.


Read how Aetna International’s security teams have helped those caught in a military coup and kidnapped for ransom.

Truth #5: People want transparency

We know that consumers need help understanding clinical and administrative decisions

Health insurance is complex and even the most savvy consumer can find themselves in a tangle. Comparing health benefits providers is not like comparing apples with apples; it’s more like comparing apples with pumpkins. So, there is a need to simplify and clarify to make the industry more comparable and transparent for people.

Aetna International communicates in a way that means members don’t need to read between the lines, on a platform that works best for them. We help them get the most out of their benefits and incentives. We provide a springboard (in regions where available) to consult a virtual doctor, and to access our clinical services (all regions). Members trust us to explain clinical and administrative decisions to them, and give them peace of mind that there won’t be any surprises.

We make it easy for our members to access to contact us for insurance queries, as well as making it easy for them to view and manage their plan details and administration and provide the peace of mind that there won’t be any financial surprises.

Our consumers are known to us as people, not as policy numbers. Aetna International recognises its members as individuals and puts the member at the centre of the conversation, not the claims or a policy number. Interactions will reflect our understanding of the member’s needs. Members trust us to explain clinical and administrative decisions to them and give them peace of mind that there won’t be any surprises.

Aetna’s answer


The Health Hub is a single home for all of a member’s health plan documents allowing them to store and access them at anytime, anywhere. This includes the handbook and explanation of benefits and claims processing. It also includes services such as help finding a health care provider. This information is stored alongside the results of health assessments.


The aim of the Health Hub is to help members understand their situation and make the best, well-informed decisions that result in the best health outcomes.


At Aetna, we have a fantastic opportunity to help look after the health and well-being of our members and their loved ones. We’re here to support all our members’ needs — from accessing quality health care to personalising their journey towards reaching their health goals — no matter where they are in the world. In the Health Hub member zone, members will find useful tools and resources to support their needs. And our award-winning multilingual customer service teams are also available 24/7/365. We place our customers at the heart of everything we do. That’s how we deliver the promise of healthy…anytime, anywhere.

Are you and/or your family living or moving abroad? If you’d like to have a health plan centred around you, why not get a quick quote online?

This article has been created using contributions from:

  • Caroline Pain - Vice President Customer Proposition
  • Dr Sneh Khemka VP - Population Health, vHealth by Aetna
  • Alan Payne - Chief Information Officer, Aetna International
  • Dr Meg Arroll - Director (Chartered Psychologist, Chartered Scientist; Simply Research), Author of The Shrinkology Solution
  • Ker Tyler - Chief Executive, Fit for Leadership Ltd
  • Bernie Williams - Director, Product & Practitioner Support, My DNA Health.

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