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Former Aetna exec on improving outcomes

Former Aetna exec on improving outcomes

Dr. MirskySAN FRANCISCO - Social determinants like loneliness and isolation can be as lethal as smoking a pack of cigarettes per day, says Dr. Robert Mirsky, who recently joined Better Health’s board of advisors. 

HME News spoke to Dr. Mirsky, former chief medical officer of Aetna Medicare, about his personal experience with social determinants and how Better Health’s peer support program can help. 

HME News: How did you get interested in social determinants? 

Dr. Robert Mirsky: This became an area of deep interest for me because of the health care journey that my father took. He had very poor hearing and my mom was his ears, essentially. Then she passed and he passed six months later because he had nobody to bring information to him. He became increasingly isolated and what we came to understand was that was an incredibly exacerbating factor in health outcomes. 

HME: How do we address this? 

Dr. Mirsky: When I was first embarking on this journey, I saw technology as a contributing factor to isolation and loneliness. But when the pandemic hit, we had to look at it in a different way. While it may have been a contributor, and may well still be, it’s also part of the solution. I do worry that just using chatbots as a form of interaction is technology at its worst, but technology as a facilitator of high-touch, deep interpersonal connection is something we’re going to have to embrace. 

HME: What is Better Health doing to improve social determinants? 

Dr. Mirsky: This whole notion of peer support is a component I hadn’t seen built in or baked into anybody’s social determinant health approach. We don’t need medical professionals all the time. Sometimes we just need somebody who’s walked in that person’s shoes to help them anticipate what that journey is going to be like and really support them. 


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