How to remain relevant in a changing IT world

Humana CIO Brian LeClaire learned a lesson in relevance early in his career — and he’s used it to drive the health insurance giant’s innovation roadmap.

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Like Humana, companies at all ends of the healthcare ecosystem have turned their attention to new technologies that customers demand. Anthem, for one, has made it a big strategic focus. Cigna is experimenting with new apps, virtual reality and other technologies. Centene in early 2015 bought LiveHealthier, a health management software maker. In the broader healthcare ecosystem, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, and Merck have embarked on ambitious, technology-driven initiatives to appeal to existing and potential customers.

Still, the move toward more customer focus and customer-focused technologies isn’t the only megatrend impacting healthcare providers. Last year, two massive mergers were announced: A $54 billion merger of Anthem and Cigna, and a $37 billion merger of Humana and Aetna.

[ Related: Healthcare IT makes improved customer service an urgent priority ]

In recent weeks, federal judges struck down both proposed tie-ups, ruling that the deals could drive up costs to consumers and eliminate competition. On February 14, executives from Humana and Aetna decided to end their pursued merger

Despite the industry tumult, LeClaire remains focused on staying relevant — and delivering value for Humana. A few recent breakthroughs demonstrate how IT is driving the company in new directions.

In October 2014, Humana unveiled its Digital Experience Center, a new workspace that brought many features of Silicon Valley to the company’s home of Louisville, Kentucky. The Center is the company’s hub for conceiving, developing and testing new digital assets, with a separate and distinct design and layout from its other nearby offices. LeClaire says Humana invested not only in the capability but the location, creating a “showcase” where Humana leaders could bring visitors — and their own board members — to, as he says, “help them understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and the different way in which we’re going about it.”

On the customer-facing front, Humana has introduced a number of new capabilities, including bulked-up pharmacy offerings, like apps for orders and refills, and lower-cost delivery.

And late last year, Humana introduced Go365. Users can input details from a health-risk assessment to discover their fitness status relative to their biological age. Go365 can respond by offering different improvement plans or programs, including weight loss or smoking cessation. Users can also set personal goals, challenge others through a social capability, and sync with various fitness devices. Along the way, users are incented by earning “Bucks” from their fitness practices. The rewards aren’t cash, but they can be redeemed within the Go365 app for gift cards, movie tickets or other items.

“Go365 is built around a digitally-enabled experience that you can have on your mobile device or on the web,” LeClaire says. “You hear the phrase “gamification.” Go365 is a good example of gamification in action.”

[ Related: 5 apps to gamify your personal and work lives ]

LeClaire and his team are measuring success through conventional metrics like number of downloads and app ratings. But there are bigger aims tied to Humana’s overall strategy. For one, Humana set a goal to help its policy participants to become 20 percent healthier by 2020, measured through a Net Promoter Score-like metric of their health activities. Humana is also pushing a broader wellness campaign for its own employees, and Go365 (and other tools) offer new forms of motivation and dashboards to measure against those goals.

Through all the change and breakthroughs, LeClaire has stressed the importance of delivering for Humana’s strategic goals, as opposed to becoming enamored of any specific new technologies. “Driving the strategic agenda of the company is really about how we pivot to become a more consumer-centric organization focused on integrated care delivery,” LeClaire says, “and how technology enables that integrated care delivery and a differentiated consumer experience.”

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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