News & Commentary

Anthem's Innovation Studio Celebrates Its First Birthday

May 23, 2017
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This piece is abridged from an interview that originally appeared on Forbes.com.

In March 2016, Anthem’s Chief Information Officer Tom Miller and his colleagues launched the Anthem Innovation Studio as a way to push the company forward in areas like mobile care, the internet of things and digital. One year later, the Innovation Studio is up and running, working to find ways to make health care more consumer friendly. Reflecting on this anniversary, Tom Miller sat down with Peter High, president of Metis Strategy, to share highlights from the past year and explains his vision for the future of innovation at Anthem.

Peter High: Can you talk about how you have set up Anthem to be more cognizant of customer needs and more responsive to what customers are asking for?

Tom Miller: Our goal is to empower the consumer to take ownership of their health, of the decisions related to their health, and frankly the costs related to their health care because more costs are shifting to the consumer. We think it is important that we go digital because that is the way the consumer wants to interact with everything in their life today. We need to make it easier, more accessible, more convenient, and more understandable because sometimes navigating health care can be a little bit challenging. Ultimately, the consumer is going to win. They are going to vote with their dollars, with their clicks, with their loyalty, with social word of mouth. Consumers are at the center. Our goal is to make sure that we empower the consumer with everything they need to have a successful experience in the health care system.

High: You lead the Anthem Innovation Studio. Can you describe the genesis of developing a separate innovation body and how you thought about its design?

Miller: We are extremely proud of our Anthem Innovation Studio. When I entered health care I was impressed by the amount of innovation activity in this industry.  Venture capitalists invested around $4 billion in this space in 2015. This led me to take several trips to Silicon Valley and meet with venture capitalist and startup firms, and it was mind blowing. It was clear that breakthroughs were inevitable and that they would be largely enabled by technology -- mobile care, the internet of things, digital as we just talked about. Recognizing that there was so much going on that had the potential to disrupt our industry, we decided to launch the Anthem Innovation Studio.

We now have a team of about 20 people that continuously innovate. They evaluate ideas, they shape those ideas, and they pilot them.

High: Recognizing that the Anthem Innovation Studio is still in its early days, are there some early wins that the team has created that you can cite?

Miller: The first one that came out of our studio is called Dynamic Video Creation. It was a perfect example of why innovation as a separate focus can create more value than a normal IT project. The task was to create a user-friendly, personalized welcome video for people signed up for Anthem Health care. Rather than trying to create a static or standard video that welcomed everyone, we found a technology that enabled us to merge the information about the new member, for example their name, how many family members they have, and other characteristics that were provided to us, with the actual plan benefits that they selected. It is personalized like that, and the response has been fantastic.

Other examples include mobile bill payment, where we enable payments of premiums and co-pays via smartphones. Also digital care gaps where we help people recognize missed care needs whether it is an appointment or prescription refills. Now that we have the technology and the data we can remind them or identify gaps in their care. A corollary to that is care-alerts, where we notify patients of appointments or medications, for example via the Apple Watch.

High: Are there any trends that we have not covered that are on your roadmap that excite you?

Miller: The consumer is becoming more empowered, more mobile, more expectant of being able to control their lives including their health care. If we want to add value everything we do has to be mobile, has to be consumer centric.

A complimentary trend is the internet of things, for us that means sensors and connected patients. We are entering an era where everything is going to be connected to everything. For instance, a member that cares about their health and wellness will have the ability to connect all the right data points to an engine that will help them better manage their own care, or we can help them manage their care.

I think cognitive computing and machine learning are also significant trends that will affect our business. If you think about the billions of transactions that we do already and the additional billions of transactions or data points that are going to be coming in with the internet of things, having the capability to mine that data with a cognitive engine in order to see the patterns, to understand what is happening, and to be able to predict things like future health issues, is powerful. 

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