Aetna Adds Two Programs to Help Tackle Diabetes in Texas

More than 1.7 million adults in Texas are living with diabetes. Research shows this is 12 percent higher than the national average. Doctors here say their biggest challenge is knowing which patients are getting the right tests and following their doctors’ treatment orders. To help, Aetna (NYSE: AET) is testing two new programs that give doctors an edge in finding and treating patients with diabetes.

More support of African Americans and Hispanics

Aetna is focused on addressing diabetes and other chronic conditions that are more common among ethnic and racial minority populations. Aetna is working with the Medical Clinic of North Texas (MCNT) in Dallas-Fort Worth to help African Americans and Hispanics more effectively control their diabetes.

“Aetna has collected race and ethnicity information from nearly six million Aetna members who have voluntarily provided the data. This data indicated Aetna’s African American and Hispanic members in Texas do not seem to get the same health results compared to whites,” says Grant Tarbox, D.O., Aetna senior medical director. “As a result, we’ve focused on increasing the understanding of cultural issues to help doctors and patients work better together to manage diabetes.”

Since 2010, Aetna has funded a part-time, bilingual health coach located at the clinic. The coach helps patients understand and follow their treatment plans. For example, the coach may translate orders for Spanish-speaking patients or help create diets plans tailored around ethnic foods. African American and Hispanic patients enrolled in the program have shown better health outcomes, including improvements to their blood sugar, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Full results from the 24-month program will be available next year.

Connecting patient data with the latest proven medical research to improve health

Additionally, Aetna and Total Therapeutic Management (TTM) are giving doctors access to iClinAdvisor, an online virtual meeting tool that provides a more complete profile of how well patients are managing their diabetes. For example, the tool captures whether patients are filling their medications as prescribed. The tool also indicates whether they are getting the recommended tests for high blood sugar and cholesterol.

Doctors schedule virtual meetings through their computers with TTM clinicians. The clinicians update doctors on their patients’ profiles and on the latest proven medical research in diabetes care. This information is tailored to a patient’s specific health issue. Known as academic detailing, this peer-to-peer consultation, helps doctors provide more personalized and more effective treatments for their patients.

“Diabetes is a complex disease that often involves several treatment options. We are glad to offer a valuable service to doctors, who may not have time to keep up with all of the latest medical research. Proven treatment options help doctors and members achieve better health outcomes,” Tarbox says.

Through this convenient, online tool, doctors can schedule appointments anytime — even outside normal office hours. Aetna is the first payer to offer this technology. During the testing phase, the tool is free and in use by approximately 150 Aetna network doctors in Texas, each with a least 25 Aetna commercial or Medicare members with diabetes.

These new programs compliment a wide range of Aetna health and wellness programs that help people fight chronic diseases like diabetes. One of these, a text messaging program for diabetics, recently received a 2012 TripleTree iAward for Consumer Innovation for Wireless Health.