NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 27, 2006

Insurance companies now nurse patients via the Internet, using a plethora of health-management tools, says BusinessWeek. A Web site evaluation of the largest health insurance companies -- Aetna, UnitedHealth and WellPoint -- reveals diverse online attributes. The sites take information the user provides and fashion a specific set of interactive tools for managing everything from high cholesterol to cancer.

While the sites are not yet fully integrated, a handful of insurance plans make some of their handiest tools available for nonmembers, too. For example:

  • Aetna provides personal statistical forecasts, a personalized home page, tailored recipes, meal plans and exercise routines, all derived from their patient health assessment.
  • WellPoint designs, monitors and automatically updates a personalized fitness program, complete with motivational reminders for skipped workout sessions; it also advises customers using WebMD's 20,000 links.
  • United Health, with its hospital comparison engine, provides information on specialty facilities and hospital quality, while their impersonal health advice merely links third party sites.

While Aetna offers the richest website and United Health offers the most confusing, all providers strive for improvement, including innovations such as linking test results with personal health assessments, providing hospital cost details and integrating prescription plans, says BusinessWeek. As health care complexity increases, a virtual coach is comforting.

Source: Arlene Weintraub, "How Good Is Your Online Nurse?" Business Week, February, 20, 2006.

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