Breaking (holiday weekend) news: Aetna does the ‘deal deal’ with Humana

Crap Game (Don Rickles): Ya make a DEAL!
Big Joe (Telly Savalas): What kind of a deal?
Crap Game: A DEAL DEAL.

Kelly’s Heroes (1970), on getting the German Tiger tank and commander to help them in their bank heist

A $37 bn deal, that is. Announced on the Friday before the US Independence Day holiday (a day which may define media ‘black hole’), Aetna and Humana announced either their merger or the acquisition by the former of the latter, depending on what account you read. If approved by the Feds, the combination of #3 and #4 insurers (by revenue) respectively will exceed 33 million insured, making the combined entity #3 in insured individuals (after UHG and Anthem) and #2 in revenue. The announcement also stated that Louisville, Kentucky, Humana’s current headquarters, will continue to manage the Medicare, Medicaid and military Tricare businesses. Both are in Medicare Advantage, which is problematic due to market share and anti-trust considerations in at least four states, according to Reuters. (Humana has about 20 percent of national Medicare Advantage private policies.) We’ve previously noted the unfavorable comparison to the end stages of airline deregulation–consolidation reducing competition and consumer-favorable pricing. No word on the future of the Humana brand and marketing, which has always been executed well.

As to the outlook for digital health support–the prognosis by this Editor of this combination is, in the Magic 8 Ball’s answer, ‘reply hazy, ask later’.

  • Humana was known in the industry for being fairly open to opportunities and backed them with funding (Healthsense, Vitality, what remained of Healthrageous) under business such as Humana Cares. Humana at Home also owns a home care management company, SeniorBridge. Will this be of interest to Aetna in population health management, or an early ‘For Sale’?
  • Aetna, by contrast, has pivoted several times. CarePass consumer apps was a patient engagement experiment that proved the point that policyholders don’t want apps from insurers. Healthagen (an acquisition) was first positioned as an ’emerging businesses’ skunkworks of sorts umbrella-ing over iTriage (now integrated into the parent), ActiveHealth, Medicity and other digital health/analytics related businesses, then scaled back in early 2014 [TTA 28 Feb 14]. Repositioned as ‘population health management, the ACO business dominates.

Various reports: Daily Mail, Forbes (which likes it not at all and sees none of the touted ‘economies of scale’) and the WSJ.

Patients should be less engaged, not more

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Thomas.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]What, the very premise of ‘increasing consumer engagement’ doesn’t work? Whatever will all the (startups, websites, gamification, personalized health, behavior modification, Quantified Selfing) do?

What the chronically ill really want is less engagement with, less time spent on their particular condition or disease–certainly not to be forced into Sisyphean tasks. What this Editor has termed the ‘perpetual Battle of Stalingrad’ of self-monitoring (especially apparent in diabetes) means extra effort with minimal/no reward, never achieving ‘normal’ and never catching a break. Glen Tullman, former CEO of Allscripts and currently a healthcare investor with 7WireVentures, points out that the endless promotion of ‘consumer engagement’ is not only patronizing, but also wrong-headed in blaming the patient for not managing their illness their way. People want simply to live their lives, not their problems.

  • “What if we ask patients—or “health consumers” as I call them—to do less rather than more?” (more…)

Aetna’s CarePass passing into history

Another Aetna Healthagen initiative is shutting its virtual doors–the much-touted CarePass aggregator for mobile health apps. Available to both Aetna and non-Aetna members, it incorporated leading apps such as Fitbit, Jawbone, Withings, MapMyFitness and BodyMedia. A dimming of its consumer/mobile health star which burned so brightly from late 2012 through last year was evident at this year’s HIMSS. CarePass was nowhere to be seen, and the iTriage patient engagement tool was off in the shadows [TTA 28 Feb]. From its redone website, Healthagen is increasingly concentrated on core areas for payers: ACOs, clinical decision support, data management and health information exchanges. MobiHealthNews broke the exclusive including Aetna’s confirmation and also the quiet departure of two CarePass executives from the company which took place earlier this summer. (more…)

Changes afoot at Aetna’s Healthagen?

Recent rumors predicted changes at Healthagen, the rebranded ‘Emerging Businesses’ unit of health payer giant Aetna, and that these would be apparent at HIMSS14. Mobihealthnews attempts to ‘Sovietologize’ Aetna chairman Mark Bertolini’s appearance (sponsored by Healthagen, not Aetna) and what products were included in the Healthagen (not Aetna) show floor display. First, the booth: only Accountable Care Solutions and health info exchange Medicity were featured.  Former star iTriage (the original Healthagen product) was relegated to a distant booth. The much-touted CarePass consumer wellness platform? Absent. InvolveCare, the Healthagen caregiver app introduced last fall? Announced to be discontinued 28 April. In the true tradition of Sovietology, omissions are as apparent as inclusions. Second, the keynote: oddly, there are no content points cited from Mr. Bertolini’s speech in Mobihealthnews. We turn then to the Dan Munro in Forbes article, where Mr. Bertolini calls for the ‘creative destruction of healthcare’, a stock rallying point since 2009 (Yes, it doesn’t work. No, it’s not sustainable. It’s an iron triangle. Etc.) The bottom line was his announcing that Aetna’s business going forward would be ACOs and “driving a consumer healthcare experience.” Hopefully that will mean access and quality for the rest of us. Will Healthagen CEO Charles Saunders be part of leading the charge? Not a mention. One could say that the Magic 8 Ball says ‘cloudy’ for the present situation at Healthagen. Perhaps more changes will be revealed in coming weeks. 

Is the ‘last mile’ of app certification efficacy metrics?

News and announcements around app certification definitely were hot topics in the past week or so, but are they more heat than light? Do these certifications adequately address efficacy? Stephanie Baum, in her follow-up to the Happtique kerfuffle in MedCityNews, opens up the discussion with the proposition: “It seems like there needs to be some way to prove that apps actually help people.” Bradley Merrill Thompson of Epstein Becker & Green points out “It’s certainly useful to know that an app works from a software perspective reliably, but it is even more valuable to know that the app can actually improve health.” While Happtique certification standards have a gap here, this Editor would point out that they were evolved nearly two years ago when the reporting/analysis needed for this was largely not available. Newer programs such as Johns Hopkins’ mHealth Evidence and the new IMS Health AppScript [TTA 15 Dec] can dip into the ‘big data’ pool far more effectively. Will Happtique be able to address this, or leave the ‘last mile’ to others? And what is the real and quantifiable demand for app certification anyway? Health app prescribing by physicians is a question mark in this Editor’s observation; the larger market may be health plans and programs such as Partners HealthCare’s Wellocracy, Cigna’s GoYou  and Aetna’s CarePass.

The lack of evidence in health IT and patient engagement

In health economist/consultant Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s lengthy analysis of the IMS Research report, Patient Apps for Improved Healthcare: From Novelty to Mainstream, ‘mainstream’ does not necessarily mean that apps deliver value–in health outcomes, health support or behavior change–which is why doctors have largely ignored them. For the 43,000+ ‘health apps’ so categorized in the Apple iTunes store, only 23,000 met IMS’ criteria of a ‘genuine health app.’ Few apps manage chronic disease for the highest health spenders or assist seniors, amazingly 5 apps =15 percent of all downloads with most apps having less than 500 downloads. Most apps provide information only and only 20 percent capture/track user data. Not dissimilar to the Manhattan Research smartphone study [TTA 30 Oct], the bulk of apps address behavioral health, eyes and hearing, endocrine and nutrition, heart/circulatory, musculoskeletal, and cancer. In IMS’ view, (more…)