The challenges and future of health IT

Interview: Humana CIO Brian LeClaire on health IT must-haves (Page 3)

By Alicia Caramenico

FierceHealthPayer: How does Humana balance consumer and provider demand for easy information access against the need for data security?

Brian LeClaire: We do everything with the protection and privacy of our member information as top of mind. The question suggests there are trade-offs. For us, information exchange must be secure. I would not view it as a balance; I would view that as a must-have. 

Here's an example of what we do in terms of making sure we have secure information. On Humana-owned laptops, when anybody inserts a USB drive into a laptop, anything we read off the drive is scanned and anything that goes in as written onto that drive is encrypted so it can only be read if it's inserted into another Humana-owned laptop. So if somebody puts a thumb drive into their laptop, takes an Excel spreadsheet and puts that spreadsheet on the thumb drive and plugs it into a personal laptop, they can't read the file.

We also have defense and depth strategy. It starts broadly in focus and narrows down into, for example, annual ethics training around privacy and security. Once a year, we go through a cyber-security week. We bring in industry experts, we hold fairs in various locations, and we teach associates about privacy and security.

It starts and ends with the associate, with the focus on awareness and training, and it goes toward infrastructure and other ways to support that as a policy, such as the encrypted thumb drive.

FHP: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as CIO at Humana? How did you overcome it?

LeClaire: One challenge is consumerization of technology. Dial the clock back five to 10 years and most people had better technology in the workplace than they had at home--whether it's because they didn't have network connectivity or had limited bandwidth. You could do a lot of things at work that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do in a home setting. And that's changing with the mobilization of the workforce and the rapid rise of social media. These are things most people today take for granted. The technology field has been challenged with that.

When I go around to different CIO-based events, that consumerization of IT is a very consistent theme. The experience folks are now having in a mobile-enabled, connected, social world--where that little black device of their hip does things that five years ago would have been unthought-of--sets a much different expectation in the work environment. So we've been taking fairly strong positions about how to enable that groundswell of consumerization.

One example of how we've done that is delivering wireless access throughout our various locations so individuals can connect through their personal devices. It's isolated from our network. But what we do is we allow access to tools that provide secure, work-based access into our network, even though it may come through a personal device, so they can do things such as email, social media, and virtual desktops.

FHP: Where do you see IT within the insurance industry going in the next 12 months?

LeClaire: You've got greater automation of the workflow that clinicians perform, so that drives efficiency. You also have greater automation around the storage of electronic information and that drives more understanding of the individual. Then you have information exchange, which further augments and brings a lot of relevant clinical information from the disparate places together for the patient.

In the coming months and years we'll see increased capability to turn clinical information into a digestible electronic form--from transcribed notes, for example. Analytics will get smarter, which will enable the identification of greater moments of influence, and the greater automation and workflow of the clinicians will create the opportunity to leverage those moments of influence.

So it's like this cacophony of opportunity that's coming together and is going to lead improved outcomes for the patients delivered at a lower total cost. We will continue to see that space evolve in terms of greater adoption of technology, greater integration of technology and more leverage of that technology to produce that outcome.

Special Report: Humana CIO Brian LeClaire on health IT must-haves
  • The challenges and future of health IT