Disruption is now

By Patti Brooke
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Torben Nielsen at GeekWire

Photo: Torben Nielsen, vice president of innovation and strategic investments at Premera Blue Cross, with GeekWire's Todd Bishop.

Innovation has been the latest buzzword in the healthcare industry. From Uber Health to Fitbit, companies have been trying to address the fundamental problems of our industry. But where do these ideas come from? How are decision-makers learning from each other?

To that end, Premera Blue Cross is partnering with GeekWire and sponsoring healthcare-related content, including a podcast, to foster a space where ideas can surface and startups can share their stories. Our region is home to some of the most innovative companies in the world, and the technologies that are in development in Seattle are going to change the delivery of healthcare as we know it.   

Last week, more than 3,000 people gathered at the inaugural HLTH, The Future of Healthcare conference. The forum focused on new thinking, strategies and solutions to deliver on the promise of the “Triple Aim:” improving the care experience of patients; improving health outcomes of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of health. These ambitious goals will require the use of new technologies and disruption of the current way we work and deliver care today. 

The HTLH conference honed in on some of these disruptions happening right now:
- More care delivery in the home and less reliance on emergency rooms and hospitals
- More cost-effective technology solutions for chronic condition management, especially diabetes management
- Better integration of transportation providers in the value chain of care delivery

With this GeekWire sponsorship, we plan to deliver thought leadership around this kind of disruption.

So who’s driving this work at Premera?

I am a month into my new role at Premera as the Director of Innovation, Client and Portfolio Management in Premera’s Test Kitchen, otherwise known as the innovation team. Our role is to identify opportunities to reduce the friction and barriers that plague the healthcare system. I am excited to be here, at this moment in time when we are seeing technology breakthroughs and creative thinking around care delivery. 

In my short time here, I have been blown away by the commitment of Premera leadership and employees to our purpose: to improve customers’ lives by making healthcare work better. And while this industry isn’t known for being on the bleeding edge of tech, I am constantly impressed by Premera’s focus on utilizing technology in smarter ways to improve the patient experience.  

Specifically, these three programs are paving the way for Premera’s disruption of this industry. 

Premera Pulse

In recent months, Premera announced a number of partnerships and initiatives with tech companies to pilot new solutions for our employees and members. This includes our program in Alaska, Premera Pulse, where we have worked with Vim, a startup that enables our members to easily find the right doctor for their needs and schedule an appointment. We piloted this offering in Alaska, and in a span of four months, we reached the impressive milestone of 10,000 patients on the platform who have booked more than 1,100 appointments. We are in the process of rolling it out to our members in the Puget Sound region.

Crowdsourcing new ideas

We recently received the “Launch of the Year” award from Spigit, a crowd-sourcing platform for idea collection that we have put to use throughout Premera. We initially deployed this to a group of 900 employees with the compelling challenge to use technology to make healthcare work better, and the platform saw 65% engagement. This summer, we will deploy a Premera-wide challenge on the platform to continue cultivating a growth mindset in our 3,200 employees.

Leveraging artificial intelligence

We announced a partnership with Microsoft’s Healthcare NExt initiative in February to embed a chatbot into our mobile app, à la Jenn at Alaska Airlines that many of us are familiar with. We’re calling this Premera Scout, and this technology will address our top call drivers. Our customers told us they want more self-service tools, and Premera Scout is one of the digital tools we are deploying to deliver on this customer need.

Technology advancements in machine learning, voice recognition, artificial intelligence, data integration and cloud services have accelerated these kinds of disruption in healthcare, and Premera is leaning in to this, experimenting with innovative care delivery methods. We are also piloting initiatives internally to learn how to apply machine learning and voice recognition to identify opportunities for cost savings and improved customer experiences.

There is a long way to go to make healthcare work better, but we are committed to making this happen. To make the progress that our customers expect from us, we must work closely with the innovative technology companies in our region. We’re excited to sponsor GeekWire’s health tech podcast at this crucial time of change for our industry. Keep an eye out for our first episode this week.

Patti Brooke is part of Premera’s Test Kitchen.

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