How Humana + Aetna And Other Mega-mergers Are Accelerating The Emerging TechnoWellness Revolution

The biggest news in U.S. healthcare over the past few weeks has been a series of proposed mergers between a range of giants in the health, benefits and wellness markets. 

Perhaps the most talked-about event has been the potential merger between Aetna and Humana. If approved by federal officials (and approval is far from certain), the combined firm could help drive down health spending by 2017. On the other hand, the merger could reduce competition and lead to higher health insurance premiums as the new firm seeks to remain profitable in the wake of increase claims generated, in part, by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

Another interesting deal involves CVS Health and Target. CVS, which is continuing its years-long quest to reposition itself as a health company, plans to acquire Target’s pharmacy business. This will increase CVS Health’s ability to provide customers with end-to-end health services, from doctor’s visits to medication delivery to adherence programs. 



While many have focused on the potential of these mergers to increase the scale and profitability of these firms, there’s another important factor driving this activity: the quest to shape health behavior in order to decrease the prevalence of expensive conditions like heart disease and keep people out of the hospital. This focus has been driven by the ACA, which has made prevention and value-based care a high priority. Leaders are recognizing that influencing health at a massive scale requires access to millions of patients, robust data sets and humans who can react to changing circumstances and boost efficiency. 

The consolidation in health will also accelerate a mega trend I introduced a few months ago called the TechnoWellness Revolution. This refers to the rise of a new breed of wellness solutions that combine data, devices, analytics and, importantly, human experts to shape positive health behaviors. Let’s talk about each of these elements in turn. 

  • Data/Analytics: Big health companies will have access to massive amounts of health data — from claims, to prescription medication usage to, increasingly, health activity data beamed in from wearables like Fitbit. Now, collecting more data is not automatically better. However, having access to larger data sets may help these organizations discover the unique psychological, social and mental factors that influence health behavior. 
  • Devices: As noted by a range of analyst firms, including Accenture, the wearables revolution will be fueled, not by consumers, but large enterprises, including corporations and payers. In fact, some have observed that almost half of Fitbit’s sales are to organizations, including insurance companies. As consolidation progresses, these organizations have the ability to accelerate adoption of new technologies — especially if people are financially incentivized to utilize them. 
  • Humans: Companies like Walgreens have already learned that providing people with mobile applications, wearables and other tools can only influence behavior so much. After all, people often abandon these devices after a few weeks and their initial enthusiasm for achieving health goals can wane without support. Large firms have the ability to provide coaching and support services — especially in the area of mental health — at scale in ways that smaller concerns simply can’t. 

Let me be clear: bigger isn’t always better. For example, with investors pouring billions into health startups, there may less opportunity for innovation as the overall customer pool diminishes and large firms are incentivized to limit disruption in certain areas. But, in an era where prevention and prediction are becoming more important TechnoWellness-related solutions that can reach and improve the health of millions will become increasingly valuable and ubiquitous.

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