Mark Bertolini doesn’t view health care the way he used to, andhe’s trying to use his changed mindset to make patient care better— for the patient.

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Bertolini, CEO of Aetna underwent an epiphany of sorts in thewake of his son’s battle with cancer and his own spinal cord injuryin a disabling skiing accident reports Yahoo News. “The biggestmessage out of all of those for me was that the health care systemfixes what’s broken,” he said.

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“So, for me, it was a broken neck and a macerated brachialplexus, bad nerve damage,” Bertolini says in the report. “For myson, it was his cancer. But when they were done with that work,thinking of me as a whole human being, engaging in my own life andbeing back in society in a way that was productive and useful forme was not on their agenda.”

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Of course, that’s not news to most people who have had a closeencounter with death or disability, but as Bertolini learned to getthrough the “very murky and difficult to navigate” aftermath, whenthe hospital stint was over and the struggle was how to get back toliving on a day-to-day basis, it was a revelation.

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“As I tried to put my life back together,” he said, “as I triedto advocate for my son when he had his cancer, it became apparentto me that we have big holes in the health care system that we needto fill in some way and that we need to treat people as wholepeople. We need to make sure that they’re rehabilitated back to alife they enjoyed. And so we started building programs beyond justpaying for acute care.”

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His goal of moving Aetna down a more holistic road beyond justphysical rehabilitation, aiming toward the 1948 definition ofhealth defined by the World Health Organization as “a state ofcomplete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely theabsence of disease or infirmity,” resulted in several initiatives.For example, gathering data on the communities in which patientslived, building programs that spanned urban farmsin an effort to eliminate food deserts, and teachingyoga-mindfulness in inner city schools to help students focus ontheir studies.

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But there’s a technological aspect to Bertolini’s approach, aswell. He’s a big advocate for in-home monitoring via wearabledevices. Specific data provided by wearables, he says, will allowthe insurer to know what kind of help patients need once they’reback home in their own communities, so that it can better providethat help—not just to the patient, but to the community supportingthat patient. The goal is “creat[ing] economic viability in thecommunity by having people in the community supporting people inthe community in their homes.”

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