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Aetna Provides Programs, Tools And Information To Help Improve Patient Safety


As one of the nation’s leading health care benefits companies, Aetna (NYSE: ΑET) has taken a multi-pronged approach to helping make health care safer for patients. As National Patient Safety Awareness Week concludes, Aetna’s efforts in this area will continue to support the major goals of this week, which according to the National Patient Safety Foundation, “emphasizes a collective effort for safer health care through partnerships among providers, patients, families and communities.”

“For many years, Aetna has been a leader in supporting and driving initiatives to increase patient safety,” said Troyen Brennan, M.D., Aetna’s chief medical officer. “We have worked with numerous federal agencies and national groups to provide patient safety tools and information to members, consumers and physicians, and it will continue to be one of our primary goals as a company in the future.”

Aetna has a number of different programs and policies aimed at improving patient safety, including:

* MedQuery® — Aetna’s MedQuery uses the CareEngine® System, which is a proprietary technology platform developed by ActiveHealth Management (a branded, stand-alone business of Aetna), to find care improvement opportunities not likely to be discovered from paper medical records. The CareEngine System continuously scans an individual’s health data and claims information against highly respected sources of medical literature, and alerts consumers and doctors about possible urgent situations and opportunities to improve care and patient safety.

On a weekly basis, Aetna’s data -- such as medical or pharmacy claims -- are compared against thousands of evidence-based care guidelines that have been adopted within the medical community as the standard of care. The comparison attempts to identify gaps in care, medical errors, and deviations from evidence-based clinical guidelines. It also can alert a physician when a necessary and prescribed medication has not been filled.

* CareEngine System-powered Personal Health Record (PHR) — Aetna’s CareEngine-powered Personal Health Record automatically combines detailed, claims-driven information gathered across the health care spectrum -- such as physician office, lab, diagnostic treatment and prescriptions -- to generate a comprehensive personal health record. In addition, Aetna’s Personal Health Record allows consumers to add personal information about their health history, such as a specific disease or condition in the family, or whether they take over-the-counter medications. All of this information is processed by CareEngine to generate personalized health care alerts and messages that are delivered directly to the member.

Members can also use the information entered into the Personal Health Record to print a wallet-sized Emergency Information Card that contains important information such as name, date of birth, blood type, emergency contacts, current allergies and medications, and physician and insurance information.

* Encouraging hospitals to avoid “never events” — Aetna was the first health plan to endorse the Leapfrog Group’s approach to “never events,” which is a list of occurrences compiled by the National Quality Forum that so threaten patient safety that they should never happen, including surgery performed on the wrong body part or on the wrong patient, leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery, or discharging an infant to the wrong person.

The company recently included “never events” in its hospital contracts for negotiations or renegotiations that use a new contract. This approach calls for hospitals to report this type of event to a select group of patient safety organizations within 10 days of becoming aware it had occurred; take action to prevent future events; waive all costs related to a serious reportable event (“never event”); and apologize to the patient and/or family affected by the never event.

* Cultural competency - Aetna recognizes the critical need for its own staff to be culturally competent. Since 2003, the company has mandated completion of the Quality Interactions cross-cultural training for its internal clinical staff. Quality Interactions was developed by the Manhattan Cross Cultural Group. This interactive program focuses on common clinical and/or cross-cultural scenarios that build a framework of knowledge and skills for delivering quality care to diverse patient populations.

The company also makes available other materials aimed at enhancing the medical community’s skills for treating diverse populations including access to the Quality Interactions cross-cultural training.

* Promotion of ePrescribing - Aetna is a member of the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI), a group of organizations that are dedicated to improving patient safety by providing free access to secure electronic prescribing for every physician in America.

* Expanded use of RelayHealth’s secure online communications services - Aetna is working with RelayHealth to broaden the accessibility of reimbursable online consultations and other secure messaging services. Aetna began offering RelayHealth services in 2006 to members and primary care physicians in California and Florida, and expanded these services to the state of Washington in 2007. Effective January 1, 2008, primary care physicians and physicians in more than 30 medical specialty categories, participating in most of Aetna’s medical plans nationwide, have access to RelayHealth’s webVisit® consultations.

Helpful Information
Another way Aetna helps improve patient safety is by providing easy-to-understand health-related information, assisting consumers and members in becoming more involved in their own health care.

One resource consumers can access is Aetna InteliHealth®, a free public website containing information provided by more than 150 top health care organizations, with Harvard Medical School and Columbia University College of Dental Medicine among the primary sources. In addition to useful information on various medical conditions, Aetna InteliHealth also includes:

* Helpful tips regarding patient safety, including articles on how to better understand the “language of medicine” and more effectively interact with a medical professional.

* A Drug Resource Center that describes various ways to reduce the possibility of prescription medication mistakes at the hospital, the pharmacy, in a doctor’s office and even at home.

* A medical dictionary to help clarify any difficult medical terminology.

Aetna members have access to additional tools and information through Aetna Navigator®, Aetna’s password-protected member website, such as comparative ratings of hospitals based on guidelines approved by the Consumer Purchaser Disclosure Project (CPDP) and the Leapfrog Group.

“A more informed patient is a more involved patient, and encouraging our members to take a more active role in their health care is one of the most important things we can do in the area of patient safety,” said Dr. Brennan. “An engaged patient usually has a better relationship with his or her physician, and that can lead to improved health outcomes.”


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