How Independence Blue Cross is using “big data” to transform healthcare

Published November 27, 2014

At Independence Blue Cross, we have a deep responsibility to enhance the health and wellness of our members, and that means doing everything possible to drive innovation and partner with other leaders in health care.  

“Big Data” and new technology have enormous potential to change the future of health care. Through technology and data analytics we can transform huge amounts of information into knowledge that lets us see trends more clearly, make more accurate predictions, and intervene more precisely to help people stay well.

“What if…?” is a question I often ask myself. What if we could predict who will develop diabetes in the next five years? What if we knew why people don’t take their prescribed medications?  It’s finding answers to those “What if…?’s” that drives us at Independence.

On December 2, Independence Blue Cross joins with The Atlantic and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association to discuss how to harness the power of new technology to improve the future of health. We’re convening entrepreneurs, researchers, business leaders, and medical professionals at a town hall event in Philadelphia to discuss this question as part of the “Inventing the Future of Health” series.

To truly harness the power of data, we know we can’t act alone. We get more done, faster, and better by collaborating with expert partners.  As a leading insurer, we’re connected to all the key players in health care – doctors, hospitals, patients, pharma and employers.  So we invite them to partner with us.

For example, last year, we joined with New York University and NYU Langone Medical Center to develop machine-learning algorithms that use our medical and pharmacy claims data to spot cases of undiagnosed diabetes and to predict diabetes in our members. This is especially important because diabetes is the number one chronic illness in our region, affecting more than 12 percent of the people here. Our trail-blazing research could significantly help reduce the risks of complications from diabetes — many life-threatening. 

In another important partnership, we joined with two other Blue Cross Blue Shield companies – Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey – and a health care technology firm to purchase NaviNet, the nation’s largest real-time, secure communication network for physicians and hospitals. NaviNet gives physicians real-time information about gaps in care for their patients, such as a missing colon cancer screening, so doctors can help prevent chronic health problems later.   

Having the data and crunching the numbers is important, but it’s not enough. We’ve realized that sometimes you also have to give people an incentive to act.

Consider Tandigm Health, a first of its kind joint venture uniting a health insurer with a recognized pioneer of physician-centric coordinated care in California. Tandigm Health will work in tandem with primary care physicians to create a new paradigm of high-quality, affordable health care. By providing doctors with leading analytical tools and access to real-time data, physicians can better manage their patients’ chronic conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, and pulmonary disease. Tandigm Health will also reward doctors for the excellence of care they provide, not the quantity of care, by offering financial incentives based on their ability to improve quality and lower costs of care.

Through our investment and focus on this work and the partnerships we’re building, we see a whole that is much larger and more powerful than the sum of its parts. When we realize the full potential of data, technology, and innovation, we won’t have to ask “What if…?” any longer.

Instead, we’ll be asking “What’s next?”

You can join us on December 2 by watching the live stream of the event beginning at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, or by following the event on Twitter with #ATLFutureHealth.