GNS Healthcare and Aetna Using "Big Data" Analytics to Help Prevent Heart and Metabolic Diseases

Models Will Identify Members' Risk and the Most Effective Interventions Before More Severe Health Issues Arise

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- GNS Healthcare today announced a new program with Aetna (NYSE: AET) that aims to treat and prevent metabolic syndrome. The syndrome significantly increases the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. GNS' supercomputer-driven REFS™ (Reverse Engineering and Forward Simulation) platform will help identify members at risk for this disorder earlier, evaluate the members who already have the syndrome and pinpoint effective treatment for each member.  

Using claims and other health information* from Aetna, GNS will use a platform called REFS™ (Reverse Engineering, Forward Simulation) to create data-driven models. These models will define a person's risk for developing metabolic syndrome. A person has the disorder if they have three or more of the following five conditions:

  • large waist size
  • high blood pressure
  • high triglycerides
  • low HDL ('good') cholesterol
  • high blood sugar

A member who has one or two of these conditions is at risk for the syndrome. Based on the at-risk member's specific health information, the model will predict which new condition the member will likely develop next and how quickly. For example, the model may show that someone with high triglycerides and low HDL will likely experience high blood pressure within 12 months without intervention. To improve or eliminate the risk factors, the model then matches each member with specific interventions that are most effective for that condition.

"Reducing or eliminating the impact of metabolic syndrome can improve the health of millions of people and reduce health care costs. Aetna offers many programs to help members understand their risks and take steps to improve their health. Using data, we will now know very quickly which of these strategies works best for specific members," said Michael Palmer, the head of the Aetna Innovation Labs. "We will also know where we can make improvements or create new programs to help our members."

The timelines and personalized interventions are possible because REFS discovers new knowledge directly from data. Most analytic models identify only data associations and say nothing about cause and effect. REFS is different. The model not only identifies that a data association exists, but also highlights the underlying causal relationships.  

"Multiple Big Data methods can identify at-risk people. We are different because we not only identify people at risk, but we also can identify the most effective intervention for each person," said Colin Hill, CEO and Co-founder of GNS Healthcare.

"GNS has a long history of using REFS to understand the pathways for different conditions and treatments. Working with Aetna to learn about the progression toward metabolic syndrome using massive real world data is a natural extension of our capabilities," said Carol McCall, Chief Strategy Officer for GNS. "We expect our models, built from the millions of distinct data elements Aetna provides, to reveal causal relationships among hundreds of variables and how they evolve over time that lead to actionable insights into precursors of metabolic disease."

Based on the success of their work in metabolic syndrome, the parties expect to address other major disease areas.

*Claims and data used in these models will be secure and comply with applicable privacy laws.

About GNS Healthcare

GNS Healthcare is a 'Big Data' analytics company that has developed a scalable approach for the discovery of what works in healthcare, and for whom. GNS analytics solutions are being applied across the healthcare industry: from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, health plans and hospitals, to integrated delivery systems, Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). GNS Healthcare discovers the knowledge needed to match patients with treatments that work.

About Aetna

Aetna is one of the nation's leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 36.7 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services and health information technology services. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see

Cory Tromblee
MacDougall Biomedical Communications


SOURCE GNS Healthcare