Steve Betts, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Health Care Service Corporation
It’s often easy for industry leaders to get swept up in the latest tech trend or buzzword that promises to fix problems or revolutionize how they do business. But many times the real value of technology is unlocked when you consider emerging trends together and how they converge to influence and shape the industry and improve people’s lives.
Getting Out of the Silo
It can be easy to become siloed when evaluating new technologies, particularly since many of them emerge as single trends. Blockchain, for example, is one that’s frequently discussed as having the potential to unlock value. Blockchain enables the sharing of data between multiple parties via a centralized, trusted ledger. However, even if the many non-technical conditions for a successful blockchain implementation are met, there are other technologies required to support it. For example, in many cases, not all data is contained on the blockchain. In these cases, digital and data capabilities are needed, such as external facing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), to round out the solution.
How many times has someone suggested that you perform a pilot of a specific new technology? While a technical proof of concept may make sense to get experience, pilots require a more user-centered approach, typically combining multiple existing and new technologies.
For example, in healthcare, telemedicine is a relatively recent technology that has been deployed broadly to provide more flexible access to care for patients. There is certainly value in telemedicine as a standalone solution. However, it’s important to think about the enhanced experience and outcomes that would be provided by adding technologies like virtual or augmented reality, data from wearables and biometric sensors, and insights from an artificial intelligence engine.
It’s not practical to invest significantly in every new technology. Establishing a structured approach to evaluate new technologies can be critical. For example, at Health Care Service Corporation, the four steps we have identified in this approach are monitor, explore, pilot and implement. To embrace the more holistic approach I described above, and to determine which technologies potentially have the most impact, we employ a strategy called “backcasting.” Backcasting is the process of working backward from “potential futures” and then determining the steps we would have to take now to build a path to achieve this future state.
In our case, this requires us to imagine the future state of health care and how we can best provide our members with affordable access to high quality care. In the future, we envision a world where relevant, accurate data and insights powered by deep learning algorithms covering all aspects of care are instantly available to optimize decision making and create better outcomes for our members.
So, what are we doing now to create a path toward that vision? First, we have implemented an enterprise data lake, containing all our clinical and non-clinical data, supplemented with external data sources. Second, we have implemented a comprehensive digital platform that includes the ability to stream and access data seamlessly and securely via micro services and APIs. And finally, we are implementing an analytical engine, sitting on top of the data and digital platforms, that powers augmented, intelligent workflows, bringing powerful data-driven insights into every interaction with our members.
It’s important to examine how all emerging technologies come together to make a tangible impact on improving business operations, spark innovation and help achieve strategic priorities in partnership with the business. This shared future vision can help your organization, including your CIO and fellow C-suite leaders, unlock significant value from key technology trends and capabilities.