In the United States, insurance providers are eagerly preparing for the opening of health insurance marketplaces in less than a month. On the first of October, state exchanges will begin to sell insurance to individuals as well as employers, and although many of the recent insurance publicity campaigns target uninsured individuals, some insurance groups are also reaching out to employers. Aetna, for example.
Aetna is a managed care company that provides a range of insurance products to individuals, employers and health care organizations. This year, Aetna has focused its marketing upon the insurance needs of workplaces and health care providers. Aetna advertising campaigns have highlighted the company’s commitment to cutting costs through better use of health technology, and better coordination between different health care services.
Health care technology has for a number of years been one main aspect of the Aetna vision. Aetna has spent around $1 billion acquiring companies that focus on health care technology; using those acquisitions to set up electronic platforms in which hospitals and health care professionals can communicate and share information. Aetna has said that their commitment to building such data sharing systems has helped to reduce errors and improve care, because when doctors are in better communication, redundant tests or other procedures can be lessened, leading to fewer costs for the hospital and better care for the patient.
Aetna has also pointed out that electronic records can save lives. If a patient is in an emergency situation and unable to discuss drug allergies or recent medical care, an electronic record can quickly tell a doctor all she needs to know about that patient’s medical background. By investing in health information technology and getting organizations better coordinated through electronic means, Aetna is hoping to improve services and, in October, encourage employers to consider joining Aetna once state insurance exchanges have opened.
Coordinated care is another important part of Aetna’s work and recent publicity campaigns. For more than three years, Aetna has been working with health care providers to create what the insurance group calls Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs. It’s a health care model in which different health care workers (a doctor and a lab technician, for example) are in better contact and collaboration regarding a patient’s care; the patient is at the center of the ACO system, and care is collaborated around the patient’s needs.
Better communication through health technology is one aspect of an Accountable Care Organization, but the ACO model also relies upon a payment system wherein health care providers are paid for the quality rather than the quantity of their care. For example, instead of being paid a set amount of money per patient seen, a doctor in an ACO might earn more money when patients experience better results. It’s a system that Aetna says will lead to better care for the patient, and makes doctors more accountable for the quality and cost of care provided.
Aetna believes that because much of its work is focused on improving care and reducing costs, employers looking to save money may be interested in joining. Senior vice president of marketing, product and communications at Aetna, Robert Mead was quoted last week in the New York Times saying that with the current health care system in the United States, billions of dollars are wasted every year due to fraud, poor communication and coordination, and the excessive costs of unnecessary administrative staff. An Accountable Care Organization, says Aetna, would cut costs by using electronic data effectively, redefining how staff are paid, and giving patients a better idea of cost before a procedure begins. On their website, Aetna gives examples of how they offer financial value to employers, saying that employers that replaced traditional health plans with an Aetna consumer-directed plan had saved, on average, $21.8 million over five years.
In the first part of 2013, Aetna concentrated marketing efforts on a campaign called “Your Healthy,” which encouraged individuals to express their personal definition of health. In the second half of this year, Aetna’s advertising has focused on the slogan “Our Healthy,” which tells consumers what Aetna is doing to improve health care and lower costs. These marketing techniques are noteworthy in that Aetna is not just promoting itself as an insurance organization; it is promoting its ability to affect health care change on a large scale. From creating Accountable Care Organizations across the nation, to working with hospitals on electronic records and other health technology, to creating financial schemes that will lead to better care and less waste, Aetna has positioned itself as a health care rather than just a health insurance company.