Improving the Health Care Landscape through Information Technology

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When people think of a career in information technology (IT), the health insurance industry is often not the first thing that comes to mind. While many people may know Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as the state’s largest health insurance company, they may be surprised to learn that it’s also one of Michigan’s largest information technology companies. From coordinating data and materials to providing members with access to their information around the clock, IT plays a critical role in today’s healthcare industry.

Technology allows for improved health outcomes through coordination of care both during a hospital stay and after a member is discharged from a facility. Patients are fully equipped with the information they need regarding medications, proper home care, and medical follow-up. This guidance can reduce the risk of hospital re-admittance, which is often caused by confusion about medications and improper treatment at home.

Another way IT adds to the value of care is by ensuring that essential member information is provided to the right physicians and hospitals at the right time. This communication is especially crucial during admissions, discharges and the transfer of patients. When a member has been admitted for care, insurance providers can communicate with their caregiver, such as their primary care physician, through the Michigan Health Information Exchange. This process allows critical information to be easily conveyed to physicians, so they are always aware of their patient’s status from admittance to discharge and can follow-up with the proper instructions and treatment.

Blue Cross has continued to improve the movement of data between physicians, hospitals, and insurers. Due to a large amount of saved, historical data regarding members and their health, it’s extremely valuable to combine that information with current hospital or physician records. This integration provides members and health care professionals with a clear view of past and present medical conditions to allow for the best course of treatment.

Member data is also used to identify health trends and disparities like disease prevalence community-by-community. This same data is leveraged to combat health care fraud – partnering with state and federal authorities to seek out doctors who are being dishonest and potentially putting patients at risk both medically and financially.

As important as all of the other roles that IT plays in health care, cyber security is one of the most important aspects of information technology—it protects companies’ and organizations’ networks, programs and data from malicious cyber attacks such as website hacking, data theft or ransomware. Blue Cross has invested heavily in security technologies, processes, and procedures that have to be followed when handling members’ information to ensure all information remains secure and protected.

Previously, most IT programs focused on implementing technologies to minimize the occurrence of service attacks on the network and ensure data was not unintentionally leaked from the network. Unfortunately, this issue has become more complex as criminal activity has grown increasingly sophisticated and the means of obtaining protected information has evolved. This evolution has created an environment that can quickly create irreparable damage to an organization, if not effectively protected. IT specialists are often tasked with finding vulnerabilities in web applications and databases to prevent cyber attacks of any kind.

The continued maturation of technology in the health care industry has produced positive results as well, though. Members now have constant access to the details of their plan. Blue Cross developed a mobile application that enables members to obtain their personal health information on the go from their mobile devices.

The distinguishing factor behind technology innovation is its ability to drive change. By using technology capabilities, we can address issues in a fast and reliable manner to ensure the long-term well-being of current and future members. In doing so, we can go from being an insurance company to a trusted source in health care that makes an impact, and more importantly, a difference.

To learn more about IT at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network, please visit www.mibluetech.com.

Laura Marble,
Vice President of MI Delivery Systems and Support,
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

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