Automation is the cloud cure for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island | HCLTech

Automation is the cloud cure for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island

Joe Friedrichsen, IT Managing Director at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, reveals how the organization has embraced cloud and automation to drive a better business and member experience
7 min. read
Nicholas Ismail
Nicholas Ismail
Global Head of Brand Journalism, HCLTech
7 min. read
Automation is the cloud cure for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island

Organizations across the healthcare industry are embracing technology and agile strategies to improve business growth and deliver better patient experiences.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) is no different.

At Blue Cross, they promise to deliver cost leadership, customer convenience, and comprehensive health and well-being for the state of Rhode Island. Its aim is to improve health and well-being by providing leading access to high quality, affordable and equitable care.

To do this successfully, IT needs to have passion on member and customer experiences, maximize the value in IT related investments and create an integrated organization of business and technical teams delivering on strategy.

“We run everything inside Microsoft Azure. We’re 100% cloud-based on our technology stack,” says Joe Friedrichsen, IT Managing Director at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

Running in the cloud

For many healthcare companies, file transfer capabilities determine how efficiently they can operate. It’s a very complex and fragile environment.

In BCBSRI’s case, the company is sent member claims from a range of providers, including pharmacies and dental practitioners to process the claim. More importantly is to trend this data across the member population to help providers guidance on improving the member care.

Looking to the cloud to deliver the company’s mission of a first-class member experience, coupled with expected business growth, BCBSRI has completed a three-year project, where everything has moved into the cloud.

“As we moved to the cloud, we now have the ability to redesign all aspects of our data structure and integrate cloud-based SaaS solutions into our data warehouse, which means we now have APIs available for us to interact with. We’re also redoing the entirety of our technology stack, so we can move away from file transfers and start to engage in real-time with various applications,” continues Friedrichsen.

By operating in the cloud when it comes to budget, it’s forced BCBSRI to look at technology very differently to when its sitting on-premise.

“As we look at how we’re changing and how we’re innovating, it's really about the whole FinOps practice,” says Friedrichsen.

In addition to the move to the cloud, and the inclusion of new data and API technology, their DevOps practice has accelerated in order to automate everything.


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A culture of automation

Eliminating waste. That is the fundamental reason for driving a culture of automation, according to Friedrichsen.

Waste comes in several different forms. It could be the repetition of daily tasks or the need to manually pass an activity to someone else in order to complete a task.

Once wasteful activities are identified, it’s a case of accessing the right tools and developing an end-to-end automation framework to automate tasks and processes, which could be as simple as automating a firewall request.

“Automation is something that we talk about all the time, and it’s applicable in every area of IT,” says Friedrichsen.

He adds: “Part of building your velocity in an agile manner is to make sure that what you’re doing is meaningful and that it’s not repetitive. If it’s repetitive, the expectation is that you automate it.”

Technology-enabled business outcomes

According to Friedrichsen, the most significant benefit of running in the cloud and driving a culture of automation is cost.

“Running things in the cloud is much cheaper than running on-premise,” he says.

The next benefit surrounds capabilities inside the cloud. By running on Azure, BCBSRI can take advantage of the Microsoft’s native capabilities and applications, which are constantly being upgraded.

“We have to create a governance [framework] around this so people aren't using everything and anything, because that causes technical debt, which is a wasteful activity and moves away from adding business value,” notes Friedrichsen.

The third business outcome is improved security.

“We’ve done ethical hacking that has proven our instance in Azure is rock solid from a security perspective,” says Friedrichsen.

All these elements have allowed BCBSRI to focus on changing its data structure around its data warehouse and its APIs, which helps the company move faster to deliver better business and member outcomes, while eliminating waste.

“When you eliminate waste, you allow people to focus on more high value things and that helps us to accelerate...and build more capabilities for the business, rather than focus on items like technical debt or security," he adds.

Better patient experience with a personalized touch

With more access to data and analytics in the cloud and more time to analyze that data with a culture of automation, BCBSRI is delivering a better member experience.

BCBSRI has provided this data and analysis—which might come from a smart watch monitoring a person’s heart rate or from a doctor’s notes—to its call center agents, who can now advise on a more personalized course of action for individual members.

“We now have a much better view of our members. It’s a 360-degree view, which means that we can really help them get healthier,” says Friedrichsen.

He adds: “Having that data in real-time because of the APIs is allowing us to do a much better job of helping our members as we engage with them.”


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