HIMSS14: Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini Touts Global Impact of Healthcare Reform

Date: 02.28.2014 | Zach Urbina">Zach Urbina
HIMSS Board Chair Scott MacLean opened the early conversation at HIMSS14 on Monday with the clear goal of “connecting and engaging all stakeholders.”  MacLean’s remarks set the tone for the keynote address by Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini who began his talk by asking: What is health?
“Health is a more productive individual who is economically viable and is more satisfied or happy. That is our outcome.”
Bertolini continued to outline the goals of healthcare that provide for a basis in “information not ideology.” His remarks highlighted the maze-like architecture of healthcare in which there remains great difficulty ascertaining the cost and navigability of a vast, interconnected system.
The Aetna CEO continued by setting forth the goals of healthcare reform into the context of individual, population, national, and ultimately worldwide impact.  He highlighted the $800 billion in waste currently ham-straining both the healthcare industry and the US gross domestic product, as well as data showing the growth of healthcare premiums at 4 times the rate of inflation.
By defining the components of a different vision of the future of healthcare, Bertolini offered up 3 ideas for a fresh foundation including aligned incentives, chronic illness care, and wellness initiatives.  Next in Bertolini’s crosshairs were the requisite digital tools that connect consumers to their providers in technologically sophisticated ways.  His anecdote of using a smartphone to find the cheapest price for his daughter’s sweater was particularly well received by those in attendance.
“The new definition of quality is convenience.”
Bertolini presented some sobering figures around fee-for-service healthcare spending.  In 2009, the top ten percent of the most costly patients drive 57% of all costs.  After looking at the troubling recent past, Bertolini next heralded the more promising near future; “In the next 6-7 years, 75 million Americans will be retail buyers of healthcare.”
Also on the theoretical horizon is an era in which the cost of care as a percentage of GDP begins to drop.  Bertolini envisions a 25 to 30 year journey toward wellness, as a meaningful metric.
Aetna’s plan for the changing healthcare industry include population health management, better assessing cultural and environmental trends, all of which leading to consumers who are healthy, more productive, and enconomically viable.  The strategy includes aligned incentives, transparency for the consumer, and technology that’s already in the hands of most individuals.
If Aetna, one of the largest and oldest healthcare organizations in the US can look ahead to technology-centered, consumer-oriented access to health services, certainly other providers can see room for improvement, and a meaningful, lasting impact as well.
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