BCBS of Minnesota's analytics and information chief: AI 'bedrock' of personalized care

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and its parent company, Stella, got a new senior vice president and chief analytics & information officer March 7: Shahid Alam.

In his new role at Stella, Mr. Alam will lead the company's analytics and technology initiatives. He joins the health insurer from Centene Corp., where he led operations relating to software, data and platform technology.

Here, Mr. Alam answered questions for Becker's Hospital Review about his new role at Stella, what makes a successful analytics and information strategy for payers, and what payer executives should keep on their radar for 2019.

Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What issue are you most looking forward to tackling as senior vice president and chief analytics and information officer?

Shahid Alam: We have a great opportunity here to foster a more information-driven culture. I'm excited to be working with such a great group of people who are equally committed to advancing the right conversations about health, value and experience through innovative technology and information-driven insights.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a successful analytics and information strategy for a payer like BCBS of Minnesota?

SA: Unfortunately, it can be common in our industry to focus on vendors, tools and tactics before there's a plan to bring all of the work together under the same strategy. In my opinion, a successful analytics strategy starts with a solid understanding of where the organization wants to go and how they will get there. This means understanding customer needs; creating secure, scalable and innovative solutions; and focusing on deadlines and results along the way.  

Q: What shifts or trends related to AI are you anticipating will affect payers in the coming year?

SA: As the healthcare industry continues to move more quickly toward the delivery of personalized care, artificial intelligence will provide much of the bedrock for that evolution. It will be crucial for payers and providers to work together to deliver on that potential.

Q: What's your least favorite buzzword when it comes to healthcare technology and informatics — or healthcare in general — and why?

SA: I'm not allergic to any particular buzzwords, as long as they don't become substitutes or excuses for achieving real results.

Q: What's one thing all payer executives should keep on their radar this year?

SA: How to work in partnership with providers and patients on ways to rethink the delivery of care.

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