Aetna's most recent technological announcement is an online program to manage metabolic syndrome, which the health insurer said affects one in four adults in the U.S.
Metabolic syndrome is a set of five risk factors: large waist size, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low HDL or "good" cholesterol and high blood sugar. If an adult has three or more of the risk factors, that person is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes compared with a person who does not have metabolic syndrome, according to Aetna.
Aetna said a person's health care costs increase up to 25 percent with each added risk factor.
In an ever escalating race, health insurers are competing to offer the latest technology to improve the health of their members and cut down on medical costs — to the insurers, employers who hire them, or both.
Aetna's Metabolic Health in Small Bytes provides evidence-based online assistance. It was part of Aetna research with Duke Diet and Fitness, Duke Integrative Medicine and eMindful. A pilot study measured how well clinical weight management programs worked for 600 Aetna employees who took part in a 10-week study. Early data showed weight loss and lower stress among employees who took part in any of the weekly Metabolic Health in Small Bytes groups. Full results from the pilot program will be available later this year.
"We already have a number of programs that help identify members with metabolic syndrome and direct them to resources that can help, like lifestyle coaching and disease management programs. Our new metabolic syndrome solutions will help educate members on the issue, offer programs to support them and provide incentive opportunities to encourage healthy behaviors," Aetna's chief nursing officer Susan Kosman said in a prepared statement. "This all inclusive approach gives employers a unique option to help their employees live healthier, while also helping to reduce their organization's health care costs."