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s health care evolves to become more consumer-centric, it’s crucial that providers and care advocates evolve with it. For the first time, we’re seeing a noticeable shift in the way providers care for patients, from providing mostly episodic acute care to being focused more on their patients’ health outcomes and overall well-being. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, I believe that transforming care delivery involves understanding patients more holistically and tailoring care to effectively meet their needs.

To explore how people are navigating health and experiencing care, Aetna, the company I work for, launched the Health Ambitions Study. This national survey explored consumers’ health goals and preferences, as well as the patient-doctor relationship in the evolving health landscape. The data show that when it comes to health, every person is unique. With the rise of mobile technologies, data analytics, and digital health tools, consumers are now in the driver’s seat of health care. What they’re telling us is that they want and need a personalized health care experience.

Personalization is especially true for women, who not only make decisions about their own health but also about their families’. Our study reveals that women are looking for more flexibility, clearer communication, and more coordinated care from their doctors. In fact, women feel it’s very important that their physicians explain test results (83 percent) and spend enough time with them (81 percent), more so than men (67 percent and 66 percent, respectively). It’s important that women feel supported and confident in the health decisions they make for themselves and others.

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The Health Ambitions Study also found that consumers are seeking access to resources that improve both their physical and mental well-being. Close to two-thirds (60 percent) said that if given an extra hour in the day, they would spend it on mental and physical wellbeing activities. Mental health and stress reduction were particularly important, with 40 percent saying they have a stress reduction goal and 36 percent saying they have a mental health goal.

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To reach these goals, consumers are looking for the right community and health resources. Right now, they’re turning to friends, family, and spouses for support: 49 percent of those with stress-related goals and 45 percent of those with mental health goals said that encouragement from friends and family would be helpful. Doctors play an equally critical role in the network of support. Not only are patients expecting their primary care physician to help them when they’re sick, but also to be aware of their health and lifestyle goals. For example, more than 80 percent of respondents said it’s very important that their physician be familiar with their mental health history and ability to manage stress.

As an advocate for holistic health, I’m encouraged to see consumers interested in working to meet their mental and physical health goals. They often go hand in hand, especially among consumers battling chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These make up seven of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S.

An estimated — 60 percent of adults — have one or more chronic conditions. To combat them, addressing mental health goals in tandem with physical goals is essential.

In addition to improving patient outcomes, holistic health — bolstered by digital health platforms and real-time data analytics — is also key to lowering the rate of increase of mounting health care costs. An estimated 86 percent of the $2.7 trillion we spend in health care is related to chronic and mental health conditions.

It’s clear — and consumers are telling us — that we’re at a critical moment in the transformation of care. We have to listen if we are to achieve true transformation.

That starts by better understanding consumers’ personal health situations and developing holistic strategies to address their unique needs. One example of how Aetna is committed to recognizing and caring for the whole person is Aetna Community Care, a new program launched earlier this year. It provides local, in-person, personalized support by creating customized care plans to meet the individual health care needs of our members. Care managers and social workers known as “clinical quarterbacks” work with members, their providers, and community groups to develop action plans based on members’ health care and other goals. This community-centered, multidisciplinary approach helps our participating members overcome the everyday barriers to achieving their best health.

It’s important to realize that the transformation of health care is never over — it’s a journey. We all have more work to do to make sure we are meeting consumers where they are on their personal health journeys.

Transforming health care today — and for future generations — depends on doing that.

Karen S. Lynch is the president of Aetna.

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  • Just another fairy tale brought to us by the corporate bloodsuckers. This here author ought to enlighten herself and go to a Remote Area Medical Event, and get acquainted with real healthcare in America. Basing decisions on patients customer satisfaction surveys is not only deceptive, it is ridiculous. These surveys are designed to obscure the facts, and limit the information collected. They essentially relate the food quality or the friendliness of the office staff. There are no check boxes for adverse events, sepsis, or even lost imaging. In post fact America, the clever corporate spin doctors, are limiting if not censoring the information available to consumers (patients). The media will avoid certain topics too. Remember these insurance companies have bought off policy makers and politicians, in order to keep their stranglehold on our healthcare. This is one of the reason the US has the worst outcomes and most expensive healthcare in the developed world. We can cut 20% of health expenditures just by getting rid of the insurance companies, and demanding Universal Healthcare.

  • I have chronic lyme desease and it attacked my liver I went to a boston doctor who put me immediately on 40 mg’s of prednisone–which was absolutely horrible–the side effects–he told me I would be on this drug the rest of my life/ I knew I did not want this so I went to a holistic doctor and changed my diet and was off and still am in 6 months–my doctor could not believe this/ drugs do not fix the problem–I controlled the inflammation in my own body with diet and I still am/ I wish going to a holistic doctor was covered under my insurance as he has done more for me than my other doctors

    • Arlene, I agree with you about the health issues that are treated with “alternative treatments,” working so much better than most prescription drugs.

      The pharmaceutical companies are still too powerful and inextricably connected with the health care providers who of course receive some significant reward for using the respective pharmaceutical companies medications. There is a lot more to the insurance companies that won’t reimburse the patient beyond just that, however. I am sure that you are aware of the other reasons too.

      Like you, I self paid for the most significant treatment that was much better than all the medications that doctors tried to make me take. It was not inexpensive, and I had actually depleted our retirement fund, but we have always lived in the moment. Having a retirement fund is important, and our employers provide that for us; not really enough, hence our own additional retirement fund is the one that was depleted years ago for the benefit of my quality of life restored to me.

      I seriously doubt that a certain population of individuals are never going to receive the opportunity for seeking out a professional alternative treatment practitioner who will be reimbursed by an existing insurance company.

      The good news is that I was treated by a couple of different professional health care practitioners who were successful in the eradication of the awful symptoms that I was experiencing, that had me in hospital for several times and on medications that I would rather have not received. Back then, I had already decided that I would never agree to take opioids, and fentanyl especially.

      I became well enough to resume my life and my own profession, which I could not even consider, until I decided for myself to change my doctors, and decided that my well being was worth the money out of pocket. It’s a big decision for most people; nevertheless the most significant decision begins with a question: How much is my life worth? The answer does not require a second of time for the right answer.

      We all come into this life with the same final outcome- a due by date. When approaching the decision of how ones quality of life is the most beneficial experience of the individual, than the decision to receive the non-pharmaceutical protocol is the only answer.

      Good health for you always,
      Catherine

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