by Peter High, published on Forbes
Health Care Service Corporation is the largest customer owned health insurer in the U.S. and the fourth largest overall, operating through the Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in five states: Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Most are more familiar with Blue Cross Blue Shield than with HCSC, and they do go to market as Blue Cross Blue Shield in those five states. Like so many healthcare companies, HCSC is a company that has had a lot of change exacted upon it, whether through state and federal regulation, the changing practices and needs of customers, or dynamics of the competitive landscape.
Steve Betts joined the company as the senior vice president and chief information officer, responsible for all aspects of technology. He is as a part of the senior leadership, responsible for reflecting the impact that technology is having and will increasingly have in the future of healthcare and HCSC. His role as an outsider to the industry but a long-time user of it has been to his advantage as he has contemplated customer experience enhancing innovations, as he notes in my interview herein.
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Peter High: Yours is an industry that has been in tremendous flux, whether it is the Affordable Care Act or state level regulations across the various states in which you operate. Each of these can have profound impacts on technology. This was a new industry for you, having come from Aon, where you were Global CIO. How did you prepare for this new opportunity, the industry, the degree of flux, and how did that reflect itself in the first plans you made for your team?
Steve Betts: That is really one of the things that attracted me to the opportunity here at HCSC. When you look at healthcare and the changes that are occurring, there are many dimensions that are coupled with the technology trends. I feel there is a new opportunity for technology to make an impact and with HCSC’s dynamic approach and position at the forefront of a lot of the changes, I really thought that was a great combination.
The first major trend is, across healthcare, shifting to a consumer-centric industry. I look at it as really becoming a more connected value chain as customers become informed and involved in making buying decisions. Compared to what has traditionally been more of a group-centric model with employers really being the key interaction point for plans like ours and employees dealing through the employer. That shift to a consumer-centric model has driven a number of changes that are fueled by technology. The first is the member-centric solutions that we need to provide, like the importance of the digital channel. Providing the right information at the right time throughout the customer’s journey from enrollment through care management, claims and so forth is absolutely critical. That is an area that we have focused on and we will continue to focus there.
There are many types of choices that our consumers want in this more consumer driven market, like deductible plans, different network configurations, and other different products. When you look back at over the last 20 years, you had an HMO, a PPO, and a couple of minor variations. Going forward, there will be more different types of products that are linked to different types of networks. They drive an incredible level of change and a need for agility and speed to market within the industry.
The last piece I will touch on is data. Data has always been important, but again, as you look at the changing dynamics and putting the member at the center of how we look at things, building those insights on data both within our walls and coupled with broader information across the value chain is becoming increasingly important, particularly as the types of relationships that we have with our providers develop things like value based care.