Get Wellness Article in Time – Silverlink, Aetna, Hypertension

The recent issue of Time magazine includes an article called “Get Wellness” about wellness.  It talks about having MDs “prescribe” wellness (think Information Therapy or Ix) and the fact that Medicare enrollees will be eligible for wellness visits begining 1/1/11. 

The new wellness benefit tasks doctors with creating “personalized prevention plans,” which ideally will be tailored to each patient’s daily routine, psyche and family life. And if that sounds more like a nanny-state mandate than medicine, consider that some 75% of the $2.47 trillion in annual U.S. health care costs stems from chronic diseases, many of which can be prevented or delayed by lifestyle choices.
The article goes on to talk about the challenge this may create for physicians.  Can they act as nutritionists?  Can they change behavior? 
Of course, MDs won’t be the only one’s focusing here (although some of that could change with ACOs and PCMHs).  Disease management companies and managed care companies have focused here for a long time.  The focus in many ways these days is how to reduce costs in these traditionally nurse-centric programs with technology but without impacting outcomes and participation.  There is one example in the article from some work we are doing at Silverlink around hypertension
Some firms, in trying to bring down health care costs, have hired health coaches to reach out to the sedentary or overweight to get them moving more. Others use interactive voice-response systems to keep tabs on participants’ progress. In a study, Aetna set out to see whether it could reduce hypertension — and the attendant risks of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure — among its Medicare Advantage members. More than 1,100 participants were given automated blood-pressure cuffs and told to call in with readings at least monthly. They also got quarterly reminders to dial in. When they did so, an automated system run by Silverlink Communications provided immediate feedback, explaining what the readings meant and where to call for further advice. Alerts were also sent to nurse managers when readings were dangerously high. The result: of the 217 people who started out with uncontrolled hypertension and stuck with the program for a year or so, nearly 57% got their blood pressure under control.

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