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How connected care helps people achieve optimum health

We spoke to Karen Weinseiss, Aetna International’s Vice President of Health Care Management, about the connected care evolution and how it can benefit everyone — from expats and the globally mobile to local nationals.

What is connected care?

What does connected care mean?

It means integrated care — connecting the dots between the patient, the health care provider and the payer. It’s making sure that doctors have all the information they need to provide the best evidence-based care; that patients can follow their care plan; that payers know what procedures are being provided; and that it’s all medically appropriate.

It’s also about connecting physical health, mental health, emotional health and financial health in a seamless, holistic way. There may be some emotional or work-life balance issues that need to be dealt with, or social services that need to be brought in so that everyone is working toward the best outcome for the person.

In order to help people live healthier, more productive lives, we need to move away from just focusing on physical care and look at the whole equation. Studies show that health care delivery only has a 10 percent impact on how long people live, and 30 percent comes from genetic influences we can’t do much about. What actually contributes much more heavily are social and environmental factors. Individual behaviours such as smoking and how healthy and fit you keep yourself contribute 40 percent, and 20 percent is connected with environmental factors such as air and water pollution. So the biggest piece really comes down to the choices that each of us makes every day to live a healthier life. 

How is connected care better for individuals?

When you have fractured health care systems where one doctor doesn’t talk to another doctor, you often have repeated tests and services — and you may even have conflicts such as when one prescribed medication interferes with another. You don’t want to have gaps in care or see people in the hospital for longer than they should be.

Preventive care is also so important. The earlier we identify and address problems, the more we can keep them from becoming catastrophic. Connected care means analysing a lot of data, identifying trends and being able to flag potential problems. We can see things doctors can’t always see, such as when a patient is going to several specialists, and give this information to doctors to help them intervene earlier.

What’s the impact on employers, health care systems and society?

Employers want to have productive, healthy workforces. When employees are getting the right care at the right time, they will be back to work sooner and be happier, more productive employees. And when you have a more efficient health care system, you wind up having a much more productive society overall.

Many governments across the world are straining under escalating costs of care. A lot of it has to do with the increase in chronic health conditions and ageing populations. So when you connect the dots along the way and identify problematic trends, you wind up eliminating some of the inefficiencies in the system. That’s great from a cost savings perspective, but it’s also great for people’s health. It helps avoid gaps in care and keeps people from being in hospital for longer than necessary.

Why is it important for people to become active health care ‘consumers’?

Patients are recipients of care; health care consumers are active participants in their care. That means they want to know why things are occurring, what they need to be doing about it, and how they can contribute to making themselves as healthy as possible.

How can connected care help people live more years free from disease?

It starts by understanding their underlying needs. For example, let’s say someone has a chronic health condition they’re not managing well. We can reach out to the person to make sure they’re taking good care of themselves — but for that to be effective, we also have to understand what is driving the problem. Maybe it’s a mother who doesn’t have time to take care of herself because she has a sick child who also has some underlying condition. Once we understand that, we can help the mother get care for her child so that she can then take better care of herself.

How connected care helps people achieve optimum health graphic - part 2 How connected care helps people achieve optimum health graphic - part 2


How has Aetna International been advancing connected care?

What is Aetna International’s mission?

Our ultimate goal is to help people achieve their optimal health. And what that means is we really want to move away from an approach where we look solely at their health symptoms and toward one where we look at the whole person. We really care about what’s going on in their lives. It’s not just about “What’s the matter with you?” It’s “What matters TO you?”

What different services does Aetna International offer to keep people well?

We’re more than just a health insurance company that pays claims. We also help get people to the right medical care and social services that they may need. We have a lot of wraparound services that really help people achieve their best health. That includes preventive wellness services and webinars on topics such as stress management or managing high cholesterol. If they have a situation at work that may be stressful and they want to talk to somebody, we have counselling services at the ready.

How do you stay connected with members?

At the heart of our outreach is actively listening to our members. When they contact us, we take the time to find out what’s going on in their lives and how they prefer to communicate with us. Can we collect a little information on them and text with them to make it more convenient? We also use predictive tools to identify people who may be at higher risk for health issues and reach out to them. And we offer group coaching programmes, health clinics and health fairs.

Graphic detailing how Aetna's one-to-one member outreach model reduced hospital admissions by 60% Graphic detailing how Aetna's one-to-one member outreach model reduced hospital admissions by 60%


How does Aetna’s ‘In Touch Care’ one-on-one model work?

Our In Touch Care model shows how we can engage with people in the best way possible. It involves having one nurse or clinician work with one member to make sure the person is getting the right procedures done, has needed pre-authorisations and understands the recommended care plan.

This is really important, because often when a patient leaves the hospital, the doctor will rattle off a long list of things to do: You need to get this medication, you need to follow up with this procedure, you need to change your diet in this way. And many times that goes in one ear and out the other. So with the person’s permission, we will talk to the doctor and document the care plan so we can refer back to it.

Then when the patient returns home, if they can’t remember all those instructions, we can call and follow up. “Did you get your prescription? Are you walking around the room like you’re supposed to be doing? Did you remove the salt from your diet?” Having all those triggers actually helps patients follow through on what the doctor wants them to do and gets them healthier faster.

We also try to look at the 360-degree view of that person. Do they have a safe home environment? Are they getting the proper nutrition? Are they following the proper exercise regimen? All of these dynamics contribute to how healthy somebody can be.

Older Caucasian man on his tablet watching a doctor explain the contents of an x-ray Older Caucasian man on his tablet watching a doctor explain the contents of an x-ray


What role does technology play?

How is technology helping improve people’s access to care and health outcomes?

Technology addresses care access issues by making it much easier to get care in the first place. With our vHealth by Aetna virtual care service, for instance, people can access a doctor any time of day or night using their mobile device. Technology is also bringing greater convenience to self-help care.

When we used technology to identify people at risk of developing a disease or having trouble managing an existing disease, we had a nurse reach out and give them one-on-one support. Doing that reduced hospital admissions by more than half. When people opted into our text message reminders, flu incidents dropped by 34%.

Graphic showing how vhealth by Aetna virtual care service text message reminders helped flu incidents drop by 34% Graphic showing how vhealth by Aetna virtual care service text message reminders helped flu incidents drop by 34%


How does this help expats and the globally mobile?

How does connected care support people living abroad or travelling on assignment?

One of the most complicated parts of moving abroad is navigating health care — trying to understand where to get it and how the local system works. Most people don’t think about that until they really need care. In some locations, you can go into a pharmacy and talk to them about your health problem, and they can help you right there on the spot. In other places, you have to see a doctor at a clinic or actually go to a hospital before you can get anything prescribed. 

Graphic detailing how Aetna's vHealth service reduces need for in-person consultations by 47% Graphic detailing how Aetna's vHealth service reduces need for in-person consultations by 47%


We’re here to help members so they don’t have to figure that piece out on their own — especially when they’re away from their friends and family support network. In a connected care model, information flows easily from the care provider in the home country to doctors in the destination country. It all starts with pre-trip planning. When someone is getting ready to move, we can identify their needs and connect them with the best providers and set up prescription transfers or care procedures. Then once they’re there, we can help get them the care they need in a fast, friendly way.

What’s the future of connected care?

How is connected care helping move us toward a better health care system?

Health care today is really focused on sick care, on addressing problems as they occur — and that’s the least efficient system you can have. It’s also a very fractured environment where one doctor or hospital may not provide information to another. In a connected care system, you’re focusing as much as possible on the preventive side of the equation to fend off bigger problems that can come down the road.

I think we’re on the cusp of something really big. Technology is revolutionising the way care will be delivered. I think it’s going to make it a whole lot easier for anyone with a mobile device to get connected to the care that they need.

How connected care helps people achieve optimum health graphic - part 7 How connected care helps people achieve optimum health graphic - part 7


Contact one of our sales consultants to see how Aetna International’s connected care approach can give you better access to care wherever you go. The organisation’s specialist international health insurance plans offer flexible choices for individuals and families. Request a callback if you’d like to speak to someone or get an instant quote for your international health insurance by filling out the online form.

If you’re a broker or an employer looking for the right international health care solutions for your clients or employees, contact Aetna International today to find out how we can help. Get contact information for Aetna International offices on every continent, including email, telephone, fax and postal address.

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