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Aetna Innovations Labs is aimed at analyzing and improving treatment effectiveness.

Aetna is an insurance company that serves over 18 million members, so you can imagine the piles of data it must maintain. Conditions treated, prescriptions filled, billing, and doctor info are all stored in their servers, so Aetna has decided to put that information to good use. Their new Aetna Innovation Labs is aimed at improving the health of their members by making care more effective, efficient, and affordable. This involves analyzing data to screen for effective treatments, watching for medications that might react badly together, and calculating statistical risk factors based on patient conditions and treatments.

For example, “metabolic syndrome” is the broad name for a group of diseases associated with strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes. Some symptoms are elevated blood pressure, low HDL, high glucose, and a big waist. Aetna had tried a program to improve the results of at-risk patients which included a certain improved diet, medication, and exercise regimen. However, only about 100 patients completed the program and saw definite improvement out of thousands that were tested.

Then Aetna decided to try a test program. They crunched the data they have on metabolic syndrome, scanning 600,000 lab results and 18 million claims within a one-year period. This allowed them to create personalized treatment plans that assessed patient risk factors and focused on treating the most statistically significant symptoms to improve patient health. For one patient, a doctor might prescribe medication. For another, the patient would be told to lose five pounds to reduce heart attack risk by 50%. Another patient would be told they are at risk of developing high glucose, and to lower their triglycerides. Based on this pilot project, 90% of patients benefited from a screening, and 60% would further benefit from continuing to adhere to the recommended regimen. Because of this success, the Aetna Innovation Labs was created.

Such data-mining could prove immensely helpful to society as a whole. Better analysis of statistical information is the quickest way to see how effective a medication is, and this will improve both the cost of care as well as its overall quality. It’s nice to see a medical development where everyone wins.