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Anthem is a leading health benefits company dedicated to improving lives and communities, and making healthcare simpler. Anthem CIO Tim Skeen and IBM Infrastructure Services GM Phil Guido discuss Anthem’s next frontier: innovating with analytics and automation for insight-driven healthcare recommendations.

What is Anthem’s business and technology vision?

Tim: There’s the concept of running the shop well, but also delivering in a connected way with the business. It’s about moving to pure digital-first products and an interaction and connection model that’s more digital, then using AI and data to help us be better advocates for our members’ health and empower them in managing their own health and wellness.

How do data and analytics fit into Anthem’s strategy of moving from a care role to a health advocate?

Tim: When you’re thought of historically as just a transaction-processing organization or a claims-processing organization, people typically are not too keen to interact with you. Either they have issues from a health standpoint, or they have a problem from an administrative standpoint. So that interaction is already starting off down the wrong path.

The difference here is that we can use the data we have, plus external data, to understand more about who they are, be proactive about things they may need to change in terms of what they’re doing on a daily basis (what they’re eating, their nutrition and fitness), and allow them to be proactive in how they manage their health and wellness. Understanding a member as a whole person allows us to reach out to them.  I want our interactions with members to be richer and deeper and actually make a difference.

What type of technology systems are needed to bring that vision to life?

Tim: It starts with a foundation of building blocks — consolidating and rationalizing core big systems and going to the next level about how you unify the data around all of your systems so you have a single source of truth and a quality record about the data you’re managing.

Then it’s about creating that interoperability and extensibility to external data. How are you going to connect with electronic health records? How are you going to connect with their finances or their social information or have them share data with you from a biometric standpoint (for example, IoT devices and Fitbits)? Now you start becoming an intelligent environment. You have the stable foundation and you have the data. You put the AI and analytics on top of it, and you can start creating insights that can drive better health and wellness.

Phil: The work we’re doing with Anthem goes beyond running their infrastructure. We’re advising, we’re helping manage, move and migrate applications and infrastructure to support their business strategy. We’re using machine learning, AI, IBM Services Platform with Watson, and we’ve just announced a great partnership around blockchain.

What does “building smarter business” mean to you?

Tim: We can have a real engagement and a relationship with our members. We can actually keep them at the center of our thinking and think about how it benefits them. Technology allows us to get to a population of one and the personalization with our members that allows that relationship to be trusted and to flourish.

Phil: Smarter technology, smarter business in infrastructure and cloud services is all about the client experience. As long as we partner with our clients, we’re building smarter solutions together.

What does “innovation that works” mean to you?

Tim: For me, innovation that works is two-pronged. One is about how you’re doing pragmatic, incremental enhancements, which is innovative because it’s creating that space and it’s improving the overall workflow and efficiency of the business process. At the same time, you’ve got to do innovation that’s experimental, and you don’t know if it’s going to work. It may be one out of 10 times it works. But when it works, it’s a game-changer.

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