Our Conversation with Elevance Health’s Anil Bhatt
For those who have been weathering the rampant pace of transformation these last few years, the emergence of the CIO as a leading player in bringing empathic experiences to scale should come as no surprise. As the push to use data to pivot from transactional relationships to service-oriented ones ensues, a human-led design approach is critical. For these reasons I wanted to speak to someone who is defining the modern role of the CIO by helping shape go-to-market (GTM) strategy in ways that bring customer experience to new heights via deeper levels of empathy and personalization.
I recently sat down with Anil Bhatt, SVP and Global Chief Information Officer of Elevance Health, formerly Anthem, Inc. Prior to that he sat at the intersection of technology, innovation, and commerce at leading brands such as HSN and Proctor & Gamble. Following is a recap of our conversation:
Billee Howard: Congrats on making the inaugural Forbes CIO Next list! Talk to me about the changing face of the CIO and how that connects to the future of customer, or in your case, member experience?
Anil Bhatt: As I continuously evaluate my role as a tech leader, what I clearly see is a need to ensure that our Global Chief Information Office (GCIO) has an engaging and robust technology engineering workforce that understands both the business pieces of technology and how technology makes a difference in helping Elevance Health improve the health and well-being of the people we serve.
I lead with an approach I call, ‘TechQuity’: the coming together of technology and equity, where equity of access to care and digital access helps bolster health, well-being, and community. Our goal should be to bring both quality healthcare and quality products to our members. At Elevance Health, we are becoming a digital platform for health, and the GCIO organization plays an important role in this.
We leverage our vast amount of data and analysis – data-driven insights to providers, consumers, and other partners – to increase access to higher quality healthcare services that help consumers lead healthier lives. Our technology today also gives consumers access to platforms like Sydney Health that give them an enhanced healthcare experience and put more of their healthcare at their fingertips.
At the same time, I always encourage my team to keep an eye on where technology is moving: how will the technology landscape look in two years, in five years, or in seven years? The pandemic presented a very real reminder that we need to be prepared for anything, and in our technology-driven world, it is even more critical that Elevance Health’s technology is as resilient and future-proof as possible. My responsibility is to always be thinking ahead so I can guide and support my team as best as possible.
Howard: We spoke a lot about how human-centered design is critical to the future of brand. Please let me know your thoughts on best practices for leveraging operational and engagement data to make that aspiration a reality.
Bhatt: Our customer voice is paramount and is front and center in everything we do. Our approach is not only to be technical, but to use a human-centered and empathetic approach to define customers’ health journeys. Having consumers participate in design sessions is critical so that we design products and create feedback loops that allow us to be empathetic to their needs. We have interviewed hundreds of people and cohorts of demographics, taking the time to understand our members’ behaviors so we can personalize their digital health experience.
That empathy and personalization is all built into an advocate’s interaction. We leverage the
vast amount of data – data-driven insights to providers, consumers, and other partners – to increase access to higher quality healthcare services that help improve consumers’ health and wellbeing. We are also constantly iterating on how we gather that customer information, and we test everything before we put it out into market. The reason why we shifted over to a multi-cloud approach is because we have been able to do AB testing in different markets and demographics to see what is resonating and what isn’t.
Howard: You recently launched an evolved brand look and feel, which has haloed internally to strengthen your culture and externally to improve your brand experience. Tell me about the campaign, your role, and any exciting results.
Bhatt: Our new name – Elevance Health – underscores the company’s commitment to elevating whole health and advancing health beyond healthcare. Improving health means more than just treating what ails us. We must address whole health and the physical, behavioral, and social drivers that impact it. Powered by industry-leading capabilities and a digital platform for health, Elevance Health’s companies will serve people across the entire care journey, connecting them to the care, support, and resources they need to lead healthy lives.
Our operating model is well-structured to support the shift in our branding strategy. The underlying technology enables the experience. Now, it will be more focused on ensuring that the brand delivers on its promises, including merging technology with the mission that is centered in our core belief. During this branding shift, I have asked myself and my team two questions: 1) How do we take our ecosystem into consideration and use what our partners are giving us to deliver on our commitments? 2) How can we be an experience-led organization, using technologies such as AI and Automation, to give our customers what they need, digitize their experience, and reduce human error?
We are building a strong, lean enterprise architecture, using multi-cloud to help us with elasticity. Our goal is to stabilize our technology and digital platforms to make sure we are moving in the right direction. Currently, we are focused on developing a digital platform, which allows us to integrate with our partners as well as leverage data-driven insights to deliver solutions when, where, and how our stakeholders need them.
Howard: The CIO and CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) have been working together for years, but you shared what’s changed is that the CIO is now not only contributing via tech infrastructure to support the customer journey, but also, playing a vital role in developing GTM strategy. What are some key learnings you can share that others can benefit from?
Bhatt: The relationship and collaboration have evolved over the last few years with our new CMO. We are really putting the health plan members at the center of what we do. After Bill Beck joined, we’ve been having conversations about improving marketing in technology – using technologies such as Adobe, CDP, etc. Our CMO has the ownership and focus on really improving the experience. We have a very high degree of engagement between GCIO and Marketing leaders and teams to ensure we’re enhancing the healthcare experience, making it easier for consumers to improve their health.
We’re engaged at a very high level from tech support, as well as product support, and we continue to increase this partnership. In the past, there were two different siloes from an introspective support perspective. Now, we meet twice a week to talk experience, consumer effort improvement, markets which are working/which aren’t, what can we do from a customer reach-out perspective.
This collaboration is also seen throughout the various levels of the GCIO and CMO organizations, such as in product go-to-market. GCIO teams and Marketing teams regularly work together to plan and implement go-to-market strategies for items like the new Sydney Health features, to ensure these products are properly launched and marketed.