The new business unit includes such Aetna holdings as mobile app iTriage, analytics and population health services company Active Health Management, health information exchange provider Medicity and home-grown physician workflow transformation tool Practice iQ. The Healthagen name comes from the developer of iTriage, which Aetna bought in 2011.
"Practice iQ was a business we created to allow physician practices to become patient-centered medical homes," newly named Healthagen CEO Dr. Charles Saunders told InformationWeek Healthcare. "[Healthagen] really is an innovation crucible or innovation arm of Aetna," he said.
[ With its new Latitude tablet, Dell is focusing squarely on the healthcare market. Read about it here: Dell Targets Healthcare With Windows 8 Tablet. ]
Saunders had been named Aetna's president of strategic diversification in 2011 and later served as CEO of the insurance company's Aetna Emerging Businesses business incubator. Healthagen now brings all those operations under a single brand name. "This was an attempt to basically formalize it," Saunders explained.
Healthagen also will operate Accountable Care Solutions, another Aetna business unit. Saunders said that all of Healthagen's offerings will be integrated to allow Aetna to offer customized packages of services to consumers, healthcare providers and "risk bearers" such as accountable care organizations, employers and even other health plans.
Saunders indicated that the Healthagen moniker Saunders is intended to be "neutral" so potential clients, including other payers, have no qualms about working with a division of Aetna. "Most of the [Healthagen companies] are payer-neutral," Saunders said. "Medicity doesn't send data back to Aetna," he added, as an example.
Companies operated or incubated by Healthagen will, however, have access to Aetna's distribution channels. This currently includes about 22 million enrollees as well as other customers, according to Saunders.
Being too closely associated with a parent company has hurt other players in health IT before. Notably, electronic health records vendor Cerner bought clinical decision support content developer Zynx Health from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 2002, but sold it to publisher Hearst Corp. less than two years later, ostensibly because other health IT software companies did not want to do business with a Cerner subsidiary.
As large healthcare providers test the limits, many smaller groups question the value. Also in the new, all-digital Big Data Analytics issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Ask these six questions about natural language processing before you buy. (Free with registration.)