The launch of Aetna‘s SmartSource portal is a pioneering effort to provide health plan enrollees with personalized information on costs, health risks, and medical information from electronic health records. The system uses data to generate a personalized profile such as the enrollee’s employer, age, zip code, and specific health plan information.

Mash up all these data points, and the consumer confronts a screen with personalized health risks and health-ful suggestions. The portal will also integrate Aetna’s existing online information sources such as DocFind, which helps enrollees find physicians and facilities.

A demo of SmartSource can be seen here.

Aetna has been an early proponent of consumer-directed health plans and providing tools to enrollees to manage their plans and care.

The engine for this capability is fired up by Healthline Networks. Healthline used to be YourDoctor.com, which started in 1999. The company morphed into its current form in 2005, re-launched as Healthline Networks in 2005. Healthline’s content is channeled through many popular sources including AOL, Ask.com, iVillage, and U.S. News & World Report, among many others.

Think of Healthline as the “Intel inside” this tool.

30,000 Aetna employees are involved in the current beta test of this system.

For Healthline, the payoff isn’t all about the licensing fee to Aetna. West Shell III, Healthline Networks chairman and CEO, said that, “Why not let us deliver advertising that can help monetize all or part of your inventory?”

It’s about the advertising network, which Healthline anticipates will go live later this year.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: In this early era of personal health records (PHRs), all eyes are on consumers and how quickly they will adopt this tool. Aetna is bullish on the concept and, as an early health plan adopter of the tool for at least 30,000 members to start, observing and learning from this project will help us to better understand PHR adoption.

There is an important and overlooked fact, however, in this equation. I wrote about Deloitte’s health consumer study two weeks ago in this post. One of the survey findings, illustrated in the chart on the left, was that consumers trust clinical information from doctors and hospitals more than they do this information from health plans.

Will the addition of ads in an enrollee’s personalized health content be welcomed by the consumer? This is undoubtedly on the minds of privacy advocates who have already come to scrutinize this project.

Aetna assumes that they will overcome this trust gap. That will be a critical success factor for this effort to be effective.

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