Aetna has developed several new initiatives to empower and engage members with Metabolic Syndrome. Aetna has designed each program to support members at their stage of readiness.
1. Alex, a Virtual Health Assistant, interacts with each member in a friendly, conversational way. Alex asks the member questions to personalize the interaction using content from Aetna Medical Directors, Nurses, health coaches & dieticians. Alex informs the member about the benefits of screenings and how to interpret test results.
Alex helps the member to relate their results to what’s happening in their own bodies through entertaining and informative animated videos. Then Alex directs the member to where they can find resources andsupport to start making lifestyle changes to help reduce their risk.
“We created Alex for members as a starting place since Virtual Health Assistants are less threatening”, explains Paul Coppola, Head of Wellness Program Strategy & Development at Aetna. “Alex enables members to guide the conversation and explains this health issue to you personally based on your combination of risk factors”.
Alex personalizes the experience based upon what the member inputs into the virtual health advisor from their metabolic screening results report.
Members have given positive feedback using Alex:
"This was the best explanation of these issues that I have ever seen."
"Love this type of learning module. Great!"
2. Lifestyle Social Community is an online monitored area where members share personal experiences, successes and support. Aetna has a Coach serve as the community moderator, sharing information, as well as, guiding individuals to resources when needed.
Members with Metabolic Syndrome participate in the Aetna Healthy Community on the Lifestyle Social Community platform. Coaches are trained and specialize in areas such as weight management and Metabolic Syndrome.
“Within our Lifestyle Social Community which on the Café Well platform, we have a private log-in area where members participate in online group coaching and communicate with others in their support group”, adds Coppola.
“This becomes an access point for health education, wellness coaching which focuses on individual success, goal setting, removal of barriers, and building in a support system to help each individual to be successful. Typically each coach supports approximately 15-20 members".
Aetna members can participate in the main social community regardless of whether they are in the coaching program. "It's available 24/7 and we hope to engage more members through this channel who may not have otherwise engaged in the face-to-face or phone coaching modules. It is another resource with peer to peer support for our Aetna members" Coppola explains.
3. Virtual Classroom for “Metabolic Health in Small Bytes” Program, an evidence-based online program is designed to help consumers (i.e. members, employer’s employees) learn mindfulness techniques to address Obesity and learn about the emotional, nutrition, exercise and motivation elements.
Metabolic Health in Small Bytes uses a virtual online classroom setting, conducted via the Internet - in real time. Participants access the classroom through the Live Meeting platform and use their phone and written comments to interact with each other and the instructor. Classes are highly interactive. Participants engage via streaming video and can hear, speak to and interact with both the "live" expert instructor as well as other class participants, sharing information or asking questions.
The Metabolic Health in Small Bytes Program which was piloted with 600+ Aetna employees, was developed from Aetna’s research study with Duke Diet & Fitness, Duke Integrated Medicine and eMindful.
"Like the little engine that could I know I can, I know I can, thanks to you (instructor name) and the great supportive group with all the tips and great ideas."
Insights from Aetna’s Metabolic Syndrome Initiatives
Alex, Virtual Health Assistant is very new to Aetna’s wellness portfolio. “We announced it in February 2013. We continue to monitor its use and feedback from members. We will plan for enhancements as we feel is needed once we gain more experience”, Coppola shares.
Lifestyle Social Community was first piloted with Aetna employees 2011through 2012. “We’ve typically seen more involvement from individuals who have higher risk (e.g., see more chronic weight personal challenges vs. more casual weight loss)”, explains Coppola. Aetna has learned that it is important for the success of the participants to feel supported and have the opportunity to share in a safe environment. “Being anonymous helps members to feel secure in their sharing and providing encouragement to others. We are working through our future technology enhancements to the social community. We want to meet the needs and goals of the participating members, while providing a platform that includes the latest technology and makes it easy for members to engage with the coaches. We do know that individuals learn and are motivated differently and want to ensure our platform and the technology supports those needs”, adds Coppola.
With the Virtual Classroom's “Metabolic Health in Small Bytes” Program, Aetna has defined ways for participants to stay engaged between sessions. “Participants are given short homework ‘at-home practice’ assignments at the end of each class. They are asked to complete these short assignments prior to the next class. This has helped reinforce the skills and techniques taught during the classes and has given participants the tools long after the class ends. Participants have enjoyed the program so much that we are continually asked if they can participate a second time”, Coppola concludes.