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Payers Add Preventive Care, Wellness to Holistic Health Solutions

Commercial payers are dedicating research, digital, and financial investments into holistic health solutions involving preventive care and wellness.

Source: Thinkstock

By Thomas Beaton

- Payers have developed several initiatives to incorporate preventive care and wellness as part of their larger holistic health solutions.

Adding wellness and preventive care can help payers keep their beneficiaries from developing costly chronic conditions and improving their overall health.

Employers recently expressed high interest in wellness and preventive care investments. Wellness and preventive care programs could also provide added value to payers that sell employer-sponsored insurance options.

Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield, and Kaiser Permanente have recently contributed research, digital, and fiscal resources towards developing novel wellness and preventive care programs for health plan members.

Aetna launches research project with Harvard to determine beneficiary wellness factors

Aetna has announced a collaboration with the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health to research factors that affect member wellness.

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Aetna will gather information based on beneficiary social determinants of health, physical health, financial security, emotional health, and other wellness factors.

“Engagement and productivity are driven by several dimensions of well-being, and physical health is just one of many factors,” said Aetna Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Harold L. Paz, MD.

“Our work with faculty at the Harvard Chan School will provide us with a wealth of data on this subject, allowing us to enhance our strategy and create innovative new programs that can help improve the well-being of those we serve.”

In addition, Aetna is launching a pilot program to research well-being assessments for select Aetna employees.

Each employee will fill out an assessment and Aetna will create a holistic wellness plan for the employees. Aetna and the Harvard Chan School plan to collect and share data to evaluate the effectiveness of employee wellness programs.

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“Individuals with a strong sense of well-being have been found to be healthier, happier and more productive, have lower health care costs and turnover rates, and perform at higher levels,” said Aetna Vice President of Employee Benefits & Well-being Kay Mooney.

“Through this new initiative, we will develop a customized approach for each individual, allowing us to join employees where they are on their personal well-being journeys.”

BCBS of Massachusetts incorporated digital wellness, preventive care solutions into member engagement

BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) of Massachusetts has rolled out a digital portfolio of wellness and preventive care solutions for its employer-sponsored customers.

BCBS of Massachusetts will offer its Emerging Solutions platform to employers with 1,000 or more employees on July 1, 2018.

The platform contains digital solutions to help beneficiaries prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes, improve overall wellness and health, and coach pregnant women through home-to-work transitions.

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Debbie Williams, senior vice president of sales & account service at BCBS of Massachusetts, believes that employers have a growing need to address common healthcare challenges for their workers.

"We've heard from many of our employer customers that they are looking for new ways to help their employees with specific challenges including diabetes, pre-diabetes, and maternity," Williams said.

"Emerging Solutions can address these needs,” she continued. “We have a unique opportunity to continuously see the newest technological advancements in health and select those that will best benefit our members."

Kaiser Permanente leads nation in preventive cardiovascular care, reduces heart disease rates

Kaiser Permanente has attributed its decades-long preventive care programs to lower death rates and heart disease prevalence in its older beneficiaries.

Research published in the American Journal of Medicine found that heart disease mortality rates among adults ages 45 to 65 fell by 48.3 percent among 3.2 million Kaiser Permanente members. By comparison, nationwide heart disease mortality rates fell by 23.6 percent.  

Stephen Sidney, MD, MPH, senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, explained that Kaiser Permanente’s preventive care and wellness programs related to hypertension and blood pressure management.

“We think elements of Kaiser Permanente’s approach can be replicated by other health care systems to lower mortality rates,” Sidney said. “Most heart disease and stroke-related deaths occur in people over 65, but mortality is still high for middle-aged members, so focusing on this vulnerable group could save many lives.”

Kaiser Permanente also attributed the sharp improvements in beneficiary heart health to its Preventing Heart Attacks and Strokes Everyday (PHASE) program, which helps improve member health by introducing lifestyle changes and necessary medication.

“These studies add to a growing body of evidence in support of Kaiser Permanente’s comprehensive approach to cardiovascular health, which combines high-quality preventive and therapeutic interventions,” said senior author Jamal S. Rana, MD, PhD, cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center and adjunct researcher at the Division of Research.

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