October 11, 2013

Innovation labs or working groups are popular across the insurance industry with initiatives from several groups of that kind making it into development. Hartford-based health insurer Aetna is the latest to prepare a pilot from its Innovation Labs, which aims to reduce policyholders' risk for developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that affects the heart.

Working with Neutopia, a personalized health company that uses genetic testing and behavioral science to develop "lifestyle plans," the Aetna effort aims to reduce metabolic syndrome risk factors through online food logging, activity tracking, behavior management, and one-on-one sessions with a personal coach.

The initiative comes from the development in an earlier partnership with GNS Healthcare of predictive models that identify Aetna members most at risk of developing the syndrome.

[Check out other technologies insurers are offering to help policyholders reduce personal risk]

"During the course of the last year, Aetna Innovation Labs has successfully piloted an analysis of Metabolic Syndrome and the creation of predictive models for Metabolic Syndrome. This prior work showed significantly increased risk of both diabetes and heart disease for those living with Metabolic Syndrome," said Michael Palmer, vice president of Innovation at Aetna, in a statement. "With this new pilot program with Newtopia, we are aiming to help members address Metabolic Syndrome through specific actions, before more serious chronic conditions arise, like diabetes and heart disease."

The program starts with a saliva test, which identifies the user's genetic risk based on genes that affect obesity, appetite, and behavior, then after an online assessment users are assigned a coach who will help them work to reduce their weight and other risk factors.

This Aetna Innovation Labs Metabolic Syndrome risk-reduction pilot will deliver Newtopia's program to approximately 500 Aetna employees over the course of the next 12 months. The company says it will not receive results of genetic testing for any components of this initiative.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...