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March 13, 2008

Health Insurance Carrier Aetna Introduces Personalized Health Search From Healthline

Vertical health destination and search engine Healthline has teamed up with US health insurance carrier Aetna to offer what the company is calling Aetna SmartSource -- customized health search. The service, powered by Healthline, will roll out on Aetna’s member self-service website and offer personalized search results based on individual health records and profiles. That means that two different Aetna customers searching for "diabetes type II" will see potentially different results based on their individual health histories.

What's different about this vs. what Microsoft, Google and Revolution Health are doing is that it's all taking place within the context of the existing relationship between insurance provider and customer-patient. Aetna already has the health records and histories of its insureds so there's little or no effort for the users to obtain the benefits (so to speak) of the system. In other words, they don't have to construct detailed profiles or upload information themselves.

What's also interesting is that this is the most developed version of personalized search yet in the market. In the relatively protected context of the existing carrier-insured relationship most of the concerns about tracking and data-mining go away. Aetna won't be using search behavior on its site, presumably, to advertise or market products to its customers.

However, in a cautionary tale about corruption in the US healthcare industry, one of Aetna's competitors in California, HealthNet, had a secret practice of canceling policy holders who were perceived as "expensive" in order to save the company money. It actually tied employee bonuses to the number of customer cancellations they accomplished.

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Posted by healthinsurance at March 13, 2008 11:14 AM