HealthMedia, Aetna Study Insomnia, Depression Interventions

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HealthMedia announced a new research study with Aetna which will provide HealthMedia's Overcoming Insomnia and Overcoming Depression online behavior change interventions to at least 400,000 eligible employees of Aetna's large employer members. Together, HealthMedia and Aetna will conduct a controlled trial to study the effectiveness of the online interventions in improving workplace productivity and reducing healthcare costs. This study will be part of a larger Aetna initiative focusing on driving behavior change across all conditions.

"We recognize that depression and insomnia are both problems that are major drivers of healthcare costs, employee productivity and the overall health and happiness of our members," said Michael Golinkoff, PhD, Aetna National Clinical Director. "We are very optimistic that these two HealthMedia programs can add tremendous value and augment the current treatment offerings for our members."

In fact research has shown that:

-- Depression is associated with 27.2 annual lost workdays per worker

-- Workers with depression reported significantly more total health-related lost productive time than those without depression (5.6 hrs/week vs. 1.5 hrs/week)

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-- Those with severe insomnia miss work twice as often as good sleepers

-- The annual cost for absenteeism per worker with insomnia is $4,800

Aetna plans to utilize an integrated database to identify participants for the two programs. For the insomnia program, Aetna will identify members who are chronic users of prescription sleep medications. For the depression program, participants will include members who are not responding well to their current treatment programs.

With implementation set to begin in the second quarter of 2008, the pilot programs will be studied in a controlled trial that will examine three important areas. First, the trial will study the value of intelligent recruitment, by using highly-tailored communications to recruit participants into the two programs. In addition, these highly-tailored communications will continue throughout the interventions to help motivate members' ongoing participation.

"One of the key differentiators in successful wellness, disease management, and behavioral health programs is the ability to connect with users meaningfully to encourage continued positive change," said Ted Dacko, HealthMedia President and CEO. "Participation is among our top project priorities because no matter how well an intervention works, if we can't draw the participants, we won't ultimately be successful."

Second, the trial will study the impact of the two programs on costs and effectiveness, compared to current treatments. The depression program will study the impact of Web-based services on treatment outcomes. The insomnia program will study the impact on prescription medication utilization. According to one study, Americans filled more than 35 million prescriptions for sleeping pills in 2004, spending $2.1 billion. Studies predict these costs to double by the end of the decade. Golinkoff confirmed that Aetna's prescription insomnia medication costs have been steadily increasing as well, and is looking to the HealthMedia program to see if a Web-based based, cognitive behavior change program can decrease member reliance on sleep medications.

Beyond the costs, medications are not a long-term solution for insomniacs. The National Institutes of Health, the New England Journal of Medicine and other prominent medical organizations recommend behavioral therapy as the best and most effective treatment for insomnia.

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