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Aetna Offers Free, Cross-Cultural Communications Training for Doctors, Nurses, Health Care Professionals

November 5, 2008

Aetna (NYSE:AET) offers free online cross-cultural communications training at www.aetna.com/provider for physicians, nurses and health care professionals who care for Aetna members. Aetna, convinced of the potential of cross-cultural education to improve health care outcomes, is providing Quality Interactions: a Patient-Based Approach to Cross-Cultural Care(R) developed by the Manhattan Cross Cultural Group, free of charge. To qualify, health care professionals must participate in Aetna’s network of providers, or have filed a claim for services with Aetna. Quality Interactions is a series of interactive online courses that teach health care professionals how to identify cross-cultural issues, conduct a culturally competent patient history and medical exam, work effectively with interpreter services, increase patient understanding of diagnosis and treatment options, and elicit greater patient cooperation and compliance with the prescribed treatment plan.

“Cultural competency goes beyond an appreciation for language differences and varying comfort levels in dealing with physicians,” explained Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Aetna’s chief medical officer. “We all have cultural influences that impact how we communicate with and understand each other. Patients vary with respect to their belief in preventive care, levels of assertiveness, individual or group orientation toward decision-making, even the value of being on time. Physicians report these courses opened their eyes to how unrecognized preconceptions may influence their medical decision-making and impact their ability to communicate effectively with patients.”

“The aim of a cultural competency program is not to stereotype patients or prescribe a set of medical treatments for a particular race or ethnicity,” said Joseph Betancourt, M.D., director of The Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and co-developer of Quality Interactions. “Rather, it is to influence health care providers to ask questions, reveal the beliefs and comprehension levels of a patient, and negotiate with the patient based on that new understanding to improve the medical outcome.”

“New Jersey is a state where citizens from all over the world have migrated,” stated Michael T. Kornett, chief executive officer of the Medical Society of New Jersey. “Cultural competency trainings such as these may provide the physicians in New Jersey with more resources to better serve the various individuals and cultures that they interact with on a daily basis.”

These Quality Interactions activities have been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(1) and meet the requirements for cultural competency training set forth by the board of Medical Examiners in the state of New Jersey. In Texas, physicians can complete Quality Interactions courses to fulfill the state’s ethics/professional responsibility requirement for licensure. The program also meets various risk management, patient safety, or ethics requirements in Massachusetts, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Physicians and nurses in all states can earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) and Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits by completing courses.

Aetna first began offering Quality Interactions to health care professionals caring for its members in November 2006 as part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the quality of care for racial and ethnic groups consistent with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 initiative to eliminate health disparities among diverse populations by 2010. Aetna has mandated cultural competency training for its own clinical staff since 2003. To date, more than 95 percent of Aetna’s 1,500 clinical professionals have completed the training, and pre- and post-test scores show a significant increase in knowledge. New health care professionals at Aetna are required to complete the course within 90 days of hire, and a yearly refresher course and quarterly newsletter provide updates for more experienced staff.

Health care professionals who qualify for the free course through participation in Aetna’s network or by virtue of having treated Aetna members, may learn more by clicking on www.aetna.com/provider where they can request a password providing access to the course.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.2 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, go to www.aetna.com.

(1) The AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(TM) system has become the CME standard for licensing boards and specialty organizations nationwide and is recognized by all U.S. jurisdictions. Forty states and two territories will accept the AMA Physician’s Recognition Award (PRA) certificate or the AMA approved AMA PRA application as proof of having met the CME requirements for licensure.




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