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Giving Health Plan Customers Analytics at BCBSSC

A new analytics platform provides additional data sources and improved insight for large group customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.

BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina (BCBSSC), like many health insurers, struggled with an ever-increasing volume of patient information. It needed to find a way to normalize its vast quantities of data and help employers learn more about policyholders so they may improve healthcare offerings.

“As you get more sources of data from more programs, the question is: How do you aggregate the data and normalize it to give you a true indication of the program and the improvement of someone’s health?” Matt Shaffer, BlueCross major group SVP, tells I&T.

BCBSSC had several requirements for a data management solution. The insurer wanted to provide one data source across multiple platforms, be able to add new data as it became available, and normalize that data so it could be evaluated. It selected a product from software development company Health Data & Management Solutions (HDMS), the Blue DataConnect health services program, to analyze health and pharmacy claim information.

When policyholders begin to conduct personal health assessments and participate in biometric screenings or online wellness programs, the data they create is not claims data, explains Shaffer. Employers want to combine all of their patients’ health data and activity then compare it to their underlying health cost so as to better understand the effectiveness of their wellness programs.

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“As the industry expands the number of programs and offerings to get at health improvement and population health management, it creates new challenges for demonstrating the effectiveness of those programs,” he says.

BCBSSC chose the Blue DataConnect health services program to improve data insight for its customers. The implementation process began in June 2012 with the goal of a January 2013 completion. The timeline was aggressive, says Shaffer, but the system was implemented and launched by December 2012.

The BlueCross staff collaborated with HDMS to improve the system’s reporting functions by including case management, disease management and lifestyle management capabilities in addition to wellness data. With these additional data sources, large group customers can better perform wellness program selection, strategic planning and benefits selection. BCBSSC expanded the tool after its launch to include data on preventative and lifestyle measures.

“This is the first time that we’ve been able to bring all of the data collection, analysis and reporting together in one platform,” Shaffer says in a release. “We can now give a more comprehensive and accurate look at an employer’s health plan, the health of its population and the effectiveness of its disease management and other programs.”

The system has assisted employers with patient data management. Employers can see how wellness programs were administered and understand when biometric screenings and personal health assessments were conducted, when people began wellness programs and when they received calls from health coaches.

BCBSSC has increased internal efficiencies by having one platform to pull reports from rather than trying to aggregate multiple platforms, Shaffer explains. The system shows how many people participated in one or more wellness programs and indicates their risk movement over time according to age, gender and relationship.

Based on the data provided by Blue DataConnect, BCBSSC customers can improve their communications strategies and develop incentives for employees with poor health habits. If, for example, a customer notices that a diabetic employee is not taking their expensive medication, they may choose to offer an incentive – such as a prescription waiver – to help them better manage their condition. The solution will help employers that want to reach people who are struggling with their conditions and aren’t taking advantage of wellness programs.

Even with the new system, aggregating large amounts of information is a challenge, Shaffer admits. “It really is taking salt water and trying to make drinking water from it," he says. “There are a lot of uses for the data, and we find new uses every day.” As employers implement more programs, he says, BCBSSC has become more adept at integrating data sources to build improved risk profiles.

BCBSSC was recently recognized by HDMS for its use of Blue DataConnect. The insurer was presented with the Health Plan Innovator Award for Transformation of Analytics at the HDMS User Forum this month in Puerto Rico.

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Author
4/23/2014 | 5:41:52 PM
re: Giving Health Plan Customers Analytics at BCBSSC
Agreed - without a way to organize and interpret it, big data is just a giant pile of information. BCBSSC provides a great example for insurers that want to turn that data into valuable, insightful information. As insurers collect and store more data, it'll be interesting to see if any choose to employ a similar strategy.
User Rank: Author
4/22/2014 | 4:09:55 PM
re: Giving Health Plan Customers Analytics at BCBSSC
This is a really interesting case study that underscores the "be-careful-what-you-ask-for" aspects of big data -- having more and different types of data and information is a great opportunity for insurers (possibly even more in health than other lines-of-business) but without the proper infrastructure and data management tools, it's just volume. Some of the disappointments around big data and business intelligence initiatives no doubt have had to do with a failure or unwillingness to make those kinds of investments.
User Rank: Author
4/21/2014 | 2:17:52 PM
re: Giving Health Plan Customers Analytics at BCBSSC
Yes, PJakhadi, the solution both aggregates and normalizes the data to provide customers with a better understanding of their employees' health habits. It also adds new data as it becomes available (for example, from personal health assessments or biometric screenings) and normalizes that as well so it can be compared with older data.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/19/2014 | 3:59:55 PM
re: Giving Health Plan Customers Analytics at BCBSSC
So, if i understand it correctly, the Blue DataConnect is data warehouse solution. It also has capability of analytics? Please correct my understanding.
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