Podcast: CMO of Aetna Digital on Healthcare Innovation
By Joanna Augenbergs



Welcome to the 11th installment of Elevar’s Executive Roundtable interview series. These podcasts highlight emerging trends and insights from industry leaders discussing their experiences and perspectives on healthcare innovation. Enjoy and check back regularly for future interviews!


We recently sat down with Dr. Saquib Rahim, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President, Clinical Strategy at Aetna Digital, the healthcare technology subsidiary of Aetna’s Consumer Health and Services division. He is also Board Certified in Internal Medicine and an attending physician.

Prior to joining Aetna, Dr. Rahim was the Director of Integrated Health at Quartet and Chief Medical Officer at CipherHealth. He has extensive experience in healthcare from both clinical and business perspectives, having practiced and/or consulted in greater than 20 different health systems since medical school. Dr. Rahim graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern University with a BA in Political Science. He also earned his medical degree from Northwestern University with an Honors in Internal Medicine. Dr. Rahim completed his MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS) where he co-authored an HBS teaching case with Prof. Michael Porter on outcomes measurement in healthcare. With his limited free time, Dr. Rahim actively practices at a local NYC hospital and writes a healthcare column for the Huffington Post.


Thoughts from Dr. Rahim:

  • Innovative thinking must always be tied to a broader strategy; Innovating in a vacuum often falls flat. Innovation must be tied to the business in order to permeate throughout the organization.
  • Emerging startups are the beacon of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. Further, the best digital health startups are hyper-focused… that’s something enterprises don’t have the bandwidth to do. This opens up the opportunity for a small startup to solve healthcare problem(s) in a way a large company hasn’t thought about yet.
  • Entrepreneurs need to find that balance of being persistent yet patient. Don’t be discouraged when things don’t work out immediately: A no is never a “no”. It’s possibly a “maybe” or a “try harder”.
  • Think about – what is the fundamental problem that you can solve in a clean and elegant way? Companies like Aetna aren’t necessarily doing everything in the right way but there are firmly established processes in place. You have to come in with a lot of data, outcomes, measurement, and proof to ask a large organization to bend to your solution.
  • One of the challenges we face from the enterprise perspective is: what’s signal versus noise? With the boon in digital health funding and proliferation of startups in the healthcare space, you see a lot of activity… so a startup that can put themselves in the shoes of enterprise and truly understand the pain points that they are facing will stand out.
  • For health plans, the future is all about customization, value-based care, and members becoming active participants in their own health.


Listen to the full podcast for Dr. Rahim’s take on innovation and the future of healthcare as well as his advice for digital health entrepreneurs.

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