You may recall that during an interview last October with the fine folks who manage the WSJ’s Health Blog that Aetna’s CEO, Ron Williams called Microsoft’s personal health platform, HealthVault and Google Health “vaporware”.
Well, he’s at it again, this time taking another pot-shot at Google Health.
Yesterday, while speaking at the MIT CIO Symposium Williams stated that the likes of Microsoft and Google do not have an “interest in improving the system or looking for gaps in care. When the data goes there, it is really static and stored.” He then went on to promote their own “Care Engine” a technology platform that came with their acquisition of ActiveHealth in 2006. Sounds to me like another desperate attempt of the old guard in the healthcare sector simply trying to protect their turf.
With all due respect Mr. Williams, you are about to be dis-intermediated. I know it, and it appears you know it as well, though you’ll fight like hell to spin it otherwise.
First, data going into anything will always be static and stored until someone decides to do something with it. Before purchasing ActiveHealth, your claims data was as static as the next entity’s data. ActiveHealth has some excellent analytics under the hood to do analysis, but you are not alone here. Google is a master at data search, retrieval and of course analytics. Microsoft is no slouch here either. Both are just starting down this path and will quickly catch-up and surpass what Aetna provides today. In Google’s case, for example, they will be able to tap clinical data, a much richer source of data than the claims data you currently tap with the Care Engine.
Second, the Aetna PHR, built on top of the ActiveHealth technology stack, is still new to the market (introduced in June 2007) and is still pretty thin in consumer functionality. (ActiveHealth is profiled in the just released iPHR Report by Chilmark Research). At the rate that Google is moving (and for that matter Microsoft’s HealthVault), they will quickly eclipse your offering. Is that not why ActiveHealth is already a partner of HealthVault? Are you not hedging your bets?
Third, privacy and security issues are certainly there but honestly, you and your brethren in the payer market, despite HIPAA statues, don’t exactly have a stellar record in keeping records safe. Microsoft and Google have far more at stake here regarding breach of privacy/security (it could potentially bring down everything they’ve built to date all in one fell swoop) and will be strict guardians of a consumer’s records.
Lastly, Aetna you and other payers still struggle with the consumer trust issue as well as portability of records. Despite numerous statements by the payer community to not use a consumer’s PHR data against them, consumers remain extremely cautious and reluctant to adopt a payer sponsored PHR. Outside entities such as Google and Microsoft have no vested interests in lowering medical loss ratios (MLRs) to improve margins, like you do. Thus, they are rightly perceived as neutral and trusted to protect their (the consumer’s) best interests.
Rather than fight this tsunami of consumer-led healthcare Mr. Williams, I encourage you to embrace it as a more engaged consumer is one who will be more knowledgeable and involved in caring for themselves and their loved ones. And in the end, will that not lower your MLRs anyway?