Aetna CMO: Provider, payer aims not that different

Harold Paz, M.D., went from working in the provider world to becoming chief medical officer and executive vice president at Aetna in 2014, but says the mission on both sides of the aisle is the same--building a healthier world.

Paz, in an interview with NEJM Catalyst, said one of the reasons he made the move from leading the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System to Aetna was because he saw opportunities to form collaborations, partnerships and new organizational structures among physicians, hospitals and payers.

The move from running a large health system to joining a large health insurance company has allowed him to work on new emerging technologies and approaches to care that are developing through innovation and that will radically change the way care is delivered, Paz said. Aetna has the wide-ranging opportunity to improve care with its connection with more than 1.1 million healthcare professionals, including primary care doctors and specialists and 5,600 hospitals, Paz previously wrote in an opinion piece for FierceHealthPayer.

Initiatives such as Aetna Innovation Labs and new start-up companies are offering ideas that are quite different than the traditional approach to patient care delivery, he said. Factors changing healthcare include the influx of big data, new technologies, personalized medicine, the emphasis on community-based care and understanding how determinants of health impact health status. He predicts a rapid transformation of how care is delivered in the U.S. and globally.

Factors that are limiting access to care--the worsening shortage of clinicians at the same time the population is aging and the increased burden of chronic disease with population growth--will open the door to new approaches to care delivery, he said.

"The inevitable benefit of all the changes we're seeing, both on the payer's side and the provider's side, are new and innovative models of care delivery focused on populations and communities where payers and providers work collaboratively to improve access and quality and eliminate waste in the system," he said.

To learn more:
- read the interview