Microsoft and Humana are partnering in an effort to improve health outcomes of the health insurer’s subscribers by making their “health care experiences simpler to navigate,” the companies said Monday.
Humana, which manages health benefits for four million people enrolled in its Medicare Advantage plans, said the companies will combine the power of Microsoft’s Azure cloud, artificial intelligence and voice technologies to “build predictive and personalized health care solutions to help members manage health issues.” Specific terms of the seven-year strategic partnership were not disclosed but Humana said there are “investments from both parties.”
In healthcare, it’s increasingly about a value-based approach to get patients the right treatment, in the right amount, in the right place and at the right time. To do that, Humana said one of the first steps in the seven-year strategic partnership will be to modernize its technology platforms and aggregate data on Microsoft Azure enabling “a truly longitudinal view of its members’ health histories.” That, in turn, will “facilitate Humana’s members and their care teams having complete health records at their fingertips when and where they need it.”
As one example, a Humana health plan enrollee who has yet to get his or her flu shot could be sent a reminder with the dates of times a clinic or pharmacy would be open to provide it with targeted information that would figure in when the flu bug has historically hit where the customer lives. The idea is to bring more personalized care to the health plan member and change the dynamic that largely exists today where “data is sitting in different silos,” executives involved said.
“It’s about your health record . . . based on what you give us access to and what you want us to use the data for,” Humana’s chief of digital health and analytics, Heather Cox, said in an interview.
The deal is as important to Microsoft, which is battling with other technology giants like Apple, Amazon, Google and myriad others to tap into healthcare, a fast-growing and large part of the U.S. economy. Health insurers in particular are looking to big technology firms for help. Earlier this year, CVS Health’s Aetna health insurance business announced a deal with Apple to help the insurer’s members personalize their health goals.
Health insurers see more savvy customers aging into Medicare who are used to using the latest smart phones, apps and digital technology through their job or daily lives ordering meals and shopping retail online.
More than 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 years old and becoming eligible for Medicare health benefits and that threatens to increase government spending and seniors’ ability to pay co-payments, deductibles and premiums so technology firms see a role in helping health insurers who are charged with picking up the tab for patient care and controlling its costs.
“With an estimated 10,000 people joining the Medicare system daily, we have a tremendous opportunity to address the growing demands on the health care system by improving health outcomes and lowering costs,” Microsoft corporate vice president of health technology and alliances, Dr. Greg Moore, said in a statement announcing the partnership.
Microsoft has also been signing other major deals in healthcare. Earlier this year, for example, Walgreens said it will work with Microsoft to connect the drugstore giants stores and clinics to consumers “wherever they are,” allowing customers to access digital services like virtual care when they need it.
In the Humana-Microsoft deal, there is a “deep research and development partnership . . . focusing on building new products and services together,” Cox said.
Over time, Humana and Microsoft hope to report back after the partnership progresses and show how their effort has improved health outcomes and reduced costs.
“The next step for medical records is to go beyond the collection of information to the delivery of insights,” Humana chief medical and corporate affairs officer Dr. William Shrank said. “Microsoft technologies offer Humana the ability to apply sophisticated analytics to our members’ records, and in turn, provide clinicians and care teams with the opportunities to make a difference in patients’ health.”