Fierce Q&A: Data analytics help BCBSNC in health exchanges

Dina Overland

Dina Overland

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) has been using data analytics to its advantage for years and is now looking to apply analytics to a new area--health insurance exchanges. To do that, BCBSNC is investing in new software that analyzes its own data and consumer trends to help the insurer better anticipate members' needs and develop better products. To learn more about the insurer's analytic plans, FierceHealthPayer spoke with Susan Helm Murtagh, vice president of information management and analytic services with BCBSNC.

FHP: What steps is BCBSNC taking to prepare for the retail marketplace that likely will soon dominate the industry?

Susan Helm Murtagh

Murtagh: In health insurance, many new consumers will be entering the marketplace, either as first-time buyers or as individuals that previously relied on their employer for coverage decisions. At BCBSNC, we're keenly focused on developing the knowledge and insights that will help us both do a better job of meeting current customer needs and anticipating the needs of consumers that are new to healthcare or that are making buying decisions on their own for the first time.

FHP: Why is analytics so important to BCBSNC?

Murtagh: Analytics is not new to BCBSNC. It has served and continues to serve many valuable functions for us--from determining how to optimally staff our customer service center to evaluating the effectiveness of health management programs to helping our employer group customers understand which products and services are best matched to their needs and objectives, just to name a few.   

FHP: How can investing in analytics now help temper rising healthcare costs later?

Murtagh: If we do a good job of matching our products and services with consumer needs and preferences, we can maximize our impact on our customers' health. 

For example, if one of our members has diabetes and is highly engaged in managing his or her condition, we can help ensure that he or she has the appropriate types of self-care information and access to the most relevant (to him or her) care management resources. Alternatively, if a member is less interested in or less capable of self-care, we hope to better understand how to increase that interest and capability to help optimize that individual's health and well-being. 

Finally, we can also improve the cost-effectiveness of customer outreach by tailoring the content and the delivery channel to maximize the impact and usefulness of the information and services that we provide.

FHP: What has BCBSNC learned thus far about its existing members and products from the analytics technology?

Murtagh: We're getting a much better sense of what consumers want and need from us. We're also refining our ability to anticipate how those wants and needs will change among both existing customers and new consumers as the dynamics of the marketplace change.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.