Aetna Keeps Pushing the Envelope

by | Mar 12, 2008

Aetna is pretty aggressive on the personal healthcare front.

First they buy ActiveHealth Management.  Granted, ActiveHealth’s main target is not the consumer (disease management is their core competency), but they did introduce an online PHR early last year.

Secondly, Aetna has partnered with all the major personal health systems (PHS) plays which include Dossia, Google and Microsoft’s HealthVault.  A key part of these partnerships what often goes unnoticed is that Aetna is providing their customers data portability with the ability to store their Aetna-sourced health record data (claims data, and possibly medication and lab data) on any of these platforms.  The consumer is not tethered to Aetna.

And today they announced SmartSource, an embedded health search tool that leverages Healthline.  There is a quick little video within the Aetna PR that demonstrates what SmartSource actually does that is well worth viewing, at least once you get past the tacky beginning.

What I like about SmartSource:

Nice integration of medical search functional within a consumer’s PHR.

Clean interface for the consumer, at least according to the demo.  Maybe Healthline could learn something here.

Highly targeted search information that directly leverages a customer’s PHR .  Particularly slick was the ability to search on a condition, then look at cost of treatment based on location (your zip code), followed by list of physicians in one’s locale and their fees for treatment.  Now that’s a very nice feature that I would readily use, if needed.

Where I have some concerns:

Though Aetna claims that information that they may be able to gleam from your searches and PHR will not be used against you in future premiums, claims, etc., how will they assure such from occurring?  Is there an outside advisory or audit board that will insure such will not occur?

How much utility will this provide to the consumer versus comparable solutions from Google Health or HealthVault.  Even if the previous trust concern is addressed, Aetna may well struggle to assure their customers that they are safe using this tool, when other options exist.


Aetna is making some bold, aggressive moves to provide the consumer both flexibility and tools to better manage their health  While bold, they are quite necessary as to date, adoption of health plan sponsored PHRs has been quite weak.

And Aetna is not alone.  WellPoint has a number of initiatives as well, including the partnership with Zagat for physician ranking.  UnitedHealth, has been almost as aggressive as Aetna, having acquired PHR provider HealthAtoZ, formed the Optum Health Division and like Aetna, announced that consumer health data would be in their control, thereby supporting portability.

The PHR market, as predicted, is getting a lot of press this year.  Are these health plans now coming to market with compelling enough PHR offerings that will result in a ground swell of consumer adoption?  That really is the bottom-line.

If you seek more info on this story, NY Times has an article today and The Health Blog has a podcast interview with Healthline’s CEO, West Shell.



  1. ICMCC Articles » Blog Archive » Aetna Keeps Pushing the Envelope - [...] actually does that is well worth viewing, at least once you get past the tacky beginning.” Article John Moore,…
  2. 4 Reasons Why Health Plans Struggle with PHRs - e-CareManagement - Chronic Disease Management • Technology • Strategy • Issues and Trends - [...] who have commented on Aetna’s plans include John Moore (Aetna Keeps Pushing the Envelope and The Business Case for Aetna’s…
  3. Healthline partners to build a Patient Portal - [...] Chilmark Research - Aetna Keeps Pushing the Envelope [...]
  4. Search Engines Using Your Personal Health Information: Creepy or Cutting Edge? - e-CareManagement - Chronic Disease Management • Technology • Strategy • Issues and Trends - [...] 14, 2008 HEALTH 2.0: Healthline personalizes Aetna (and more) The Health Care Blog; March 12, 2008 Aetna Keeps Pushing the…
  5. United Health Jumps Into Consumer Fray « Chilmark Research - [...] moves by competitors CIGNA (finally coming on-board), Wellpoint (who seems to be adrift) and Aetna, (leader fo the pack)…
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