C4 typically reports on LIS or data matters but this month it’s going to be a little different. We recently attended a Data Managers Association (DAMA) presentation entitled “The Perfect Storm: Health Data Wrangling in a post-COVID World” featuring Microsoft Healthcare’s informatics expert Austin Walsh. Since his shared research left everyone with several meaningful nuggets of knowledge, we thought we’d pass a few along to you.

Our biggest takeaway was that health insurance providers had a hugely profitable 2020:

  • UnitedHealth Group net income went from $3.4B in 2019 to $6.7B in 2020
  • Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield net income went from $1.1B in 2019 to $2.3B in 2020
  • Humana net income went from $0.9B in 2019 to $1.8B in 2020

The reason these insurance providers each essentially doubled their profits was due to COVID-19 restrictions: many services needed to be delayed and some were reduced in frequency, or in-person visits were replaced by tele-visits, all contributing to plunging costs. Due to regulations, there may be good news for consumers since company profit caps should result in these providers paying out rebates…looking forward to seeing that happen!

Now let’s look at some innovations that resulted from this past year of challenges:

One was the creation of bots and chats that could be used to assist in the triage process.  By using them, people could complete the exchange of information to enable them to self-identify risks of COVID-19 exposure. To make this work effectively, digital symptom checker tools were developed. Now these same tools are being leveraged to help determine vaccine eligibility.

Another innovation is the mobile app that Abbott Labs released called Navica. This app is used in at-home testing: users can send in their samples for testing, then receive results via their app.  This enables users to have their most recent test result, along with a date stamp, on a COVID-19 Card within their new digital health pass.

Finally, a new type of big data was created that became widely used for public health information. An electronic case reporting network organically came together, assisted by Digital Bridge Partners, at the start of the pandemic. First spreadsheets were gathered, then they were integrated, and finally tools were created to visualize pandemic data charts for display on web sites and apps.

Obviously, the pandemic has had many other impacts and stopping the spread still cannot happen soon enough.  But we did learn a lot from this past year and have managed to create some progressive tools for healthcare management along the way.