January 24, 2014

Health insurer Aetna has announced two additions to its Healthy Lifestyle Coaching (HLC) initiative. The Metabolic Health in Small Bytes and Metabolic Health Advisor programs are designed to educate employees on metabolic syndrome and develop their focus on healthy living.

“Customers have realized the importance of making [wellness] services available to employees and how much they’re linked to employees’ well-being and performance,” says Susan Kosman, Aetna’s chief nursing officer. Participants can receive individual and group wellness coaching or access online communities to support other Aetna members who want to make positive health changes.

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A study of 80 HLC participants found a 150% ROI from reduced medical costs, increased productivity and decreased absenteeism, according to Aetna’s website. Fifty-five percent of participants exercised more, 54% lost weight and 51% decreased stress. Stress, Kosman explains, is the eighth most common reason people leave their roles. “As we’ve grown the program, one of the things that came out was the connection of stress levels to health and well-being,” she says.

Metabolic Health in Small Bytes, an online program created in conjunction with Duke Diet and Fitness, Duke Integrative Medicine and eMindful, provides courses to decrease stress and improve physical health. Participants and instructors may be connected in-person, via telephone or through virtual classroom technology.

Aetna members use interactive webcasts and group chats to learn the theory and practice behind topics such as sleep quality improvement, deep breathing techniques, and recognizing and managing issues such as binge eating and depression. “Part of the class involves allowing individuals to practice some of the techniques with the guidance of the instructor,” says Kosman. Courses are held on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on employer.

The Interactive Metabolic Health Advisor, also known as ALEX, was created in collaboration with Jellyvision to educate employees on metabolic syndrome, a disease that infects one in four adults and often leads to heart disease and diabetes.

ALEX plays host in a virtual conversation that explains the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. It walks the viewer through the details of the disease and how to prepare for a metabolic screening. After the screening, ALEX interprets the test results to identify dangerous risk factors and make recommendations on how users can improve their individual health.

Early data from Aetna has shown positive results in weight loss and stress reduction for users of the two newest initiatives. HLC programs are available to members whose employers have opted to add them to the company’s healthcare package. They are not offered directly to consumers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelly is an associate editor for Insurance & Technology. Prior to joining InformationWeek Financial Services, she was a staff writer for InformationWeek and InformationWeek Education. Kelly has also written for trade ...