Healthcare costs are rising, and the current COVID-19 crisis is sure to create financial hardship for both patients and healthcare facilities. Providing affordable healthcare will become even more of a priority. Digital healthcare promises to be the catalyst for reducing costs and improving patient outcomes. Cigna is leading the digital revolution in the healthcare industry. Eric Reed, Cigna SVP of Global Infrastructure Services and Application Operations, spoke at last year’s ONUG conference about the opportunities opened up by the digital transformation, as well as the challenges it brings to the healthcare industry in general. Here are the highlights of his keynote session.
Cigna’s mission is to improve the health, well-being and peace of mind of those they serve. Their focus on whole-person health led to the acquisition of Express Scripts last year, enabling the company to drive the whole chain of care. Cigna is deep in health services, managing over 165 million relationships with customers and providers around the globe, and maintaining one million providers, clinics and facilities.
Cigna knows if they can keep their patients healthy, healthcare costs will go down for both patients and employers. Everyone wins. They are achieving that goal by using targeted innovation, such as wearables, that are based on data and analytics to drive outcomes. With over 200 years of experience, Cigna has worked in the true spirit of partnership to change lives. The digital revolution is helping them achieve that mission.
A move to value-based care is driving disruption, and Cigna is leading this charge by focusing on outcomes. For example, the company makes provider ratings available to customers. Much like consumers search Yelp for the best restaurant, patients can look at provider ratings, empowering them with a choice. Cigna was the first health service to have an Alexa app. Additionally, they purchased Brighter, a cloud-based platform for dental services that allows patients to see a review, read what other patients had to say, and even look at a cost index. Reed highlighted three main factors affecting digital disruption.
Reed acknowledged that digital adoption is hard, especially if your organization is not cloud native. Why? Cloud native companies have legacy infrastructure already developed. A lot of innovation is happening in the hybrid world. However, for many companies, the data is still stored in their data centers. For example, Cigna’s private clouds have allowed for growth and flexibility, but data is stored on the mainframe, one of the hardest places to innovate. As Cigna moved into IaaS and PaaS over the last five years, capabilities increased. Reed admits, however, this structure is a big burden on his team.
Many industries, including healthcare, are shifting to the public cloud. Cigna’s main reason for making the shift was for agility. “There are things we can do much faster in the public cloud than we can do inside,” explained Reed. For example, they wanted to try to do something new in the analytics space. A project that would have taken six months only took eight weeks in the cloud. The project was a success. However, Reed explained, even if it had failed they would have only spent eight weeks and a handful of dollars.
However, data centers are not dead. Reed said they will be around for a while for these five reasons:
Reed summed up current and near-future trends in these four statements.
“Infrastructure exists to service applications,” explained Reed. Start your shift by thinking from an application standpoint. “Application rationalization is a big part of what needs to be done.” That can be a challenge because people are often protective of applications they’ve been using, even though they complain about their functionality. Reed encouraged listeners to start with systems of innovation, things close to the market that need to be agile. They are ideal for cloud development. By contrast, applications of record, such as payroll or GL programs, change less frequently. Companies must take a candid look at what will be retired, what can be modified and what will be new. What can be cloud native and DevOps-based?
Governance is also a challenge, but also an opportunity for change. Cigna has defined an owner, a CoE, whose job is to be the guidepost and help everyone get where they need to be. Reed stressed the importance of understanding the landscape of governance, communicating well (especially to Shadow IT), and learning to love your audit.
Attracting and retaining talent can present another hurdle. In the late 90s and early 2000s, companies frequently outsourced IT talent. That resulted in a landscape of entry-level talent and senior IT managers. Reed explained that a career path gap was left. Now, the world is demanding development, and companies are struggling to bring that talent back in-house. The world is changing every day. Companies don’t have the luxury of sitting, planning, and outsourcing development that could take six months. “Every day, you’ve got to be making changes and innovations in the marketplace to stay ahead of it,” Reed said.
Here’s how Cigna is meeting the challenges in these three areas.
Reed concluded his keynote focusing on business alignment. Cigna started their transformation out of necessity. Digital transformation was necessary for them to meet the needs of patients and providers, as well as compete in the marketplace.
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