Aetna helps members address emotional impacts of cancer


Aetna has launched a new pilot program that aims to help its members address the emotional impacts of cancer in addition to all the physical issues. The program, called Aetna CarePal, connects members who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer to members who have already survived the disease, the insurer said yesterday in an article on its website.

"The emotional and psychological challenges of dealing with cancer are just as significant as the physical issues," Michael Kolodziej, Aetna's national medical director for oncology strategy, said in the article. "The Aetna CarePal program goes beyond the notion of community support systems to create individual, one-to-one connections based on the relative experience of Aetna members."

Personally connecting with others who have experienced similar situations lets newly diagnosed members benefit from knowledge, experience and support of people who have dealt with the same condition, Aetna said.

"A breast cancer diagnosis is life-changing on a number of different levels, so we try to help our members in a variety of different ways" Greg Steinberg, head of clinical innovation at Aetna, told FierceHealthPayer in an email. "The Aetna CarePal program helps somebody recently diagnosed with breast cancer connect with somebody who has overcome it, giving them emotional support and hopefully helping to reduce some of the burden and fear associated with breast cancer."

To make the connections, Aetna is reaching out to female members who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and women who are in remission. If the members volunteer to participate, Aetna makes matches based on the type of breast cancer; their age, marital and family status; and topics they're interested in discussing, the insurer said.

The CarePal program is the newest approach Aetna is taking to help its members with cancer. Steinberg told FierceHealthPayer that Aetna already offers support to its members through existing care management programs and collaborates with providers to encourage evidence-based treatment.

And Aetna said over the summer that it's analyzing how to fully reimburse for cancer care. It already has created a patient-centered medical home with one oncology practice but is taking its cancer care programs one step at a time, hoping to build its base of oncology practices gradually, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Aetna article

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