Aetna’s $37 billion deal for Humana – the largest sum one insurance carrier has paid for another – is certainly worth it from a technology perspective. CEOs of both companies said in a conference call that the combined company will set the standard for engagement with the consumer and provider communities through technology.

“Humana’s consumer strategy and investments to date are in line with Aetna’s vision of the future of healthcare delivery,” said Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. “We believe the acquisition provides substantial opportunities to combine these best of breed consumer engagement programs [and create] a combined company with a singular vision of enabling consumers with simple tools to easily and actively manage their health care needs.”

Those programs include “home health, pharmacy management, and data analytics programs,” according to Humana CEO Bruce Broussard.

“Through the use of technology and integrated services to simplify the consumer experience, the combined entity will be even more effective in meeting the health needs of many more people,” Broussard continued.

[Read Humana CEO Broussard's Message to Tech Vendors]

Bertolini also noted that Aetna, through its Healthagen data unit, and Humana, through its similar Transcend division, are working toward a new, data-driven model of healthcare from the provider side.

“I think Humana has done a good job [on consumer tech] and that acumen is going to help Aetna,” says Joseph Smith, the CEO of health IT consultancy HITvision and the former CIO of Arkansas Blue Cross.
“[Humana will] have to modify what they’ve done because of the market differences -- Humana is largely an over-65 crowd -- but certainly the speed of acquisition of the knowledge base is important.”

But in terms of integration, there’s probably still a lot to be decided, Smith adds. Though Humana and Aetna surely have large and valuable data assets, it’s not as simple as just jamming the two companies together and coming out with better insight. The companies have traditionally served different kinds of markets, making integration far from a snap.

“The question is, ‘How do I take the commercial business of Aetna and merge it with the more complicated requirements of the government programs [Medicare and Medicaid] that Humana is known for?’” he says. “You’ve got a lot more restrictions and compliance efforts to perform than Aetna would typically be providing.”

However, such a combination is almost assuredly coming, Smith expects. The companies made this deal for a reason, and integrating their platforms is going to be crucial to that goal. As the merger process goes on, tech organizations for both companies will have to come up with a solution that allows them to serve the larger corporate goal.

“They’re going after the play of trying to get that broader customer base,” Smith says. “Though the focus up until now probably has been on getting this [merger] through regulators and anti-trust agencies, you can bet those conversations are coming.”

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