Highmark Health inks six-year cloud, tech deal with Google

Highmark Health is launching a new consumer experience strategy, underpinned by a six-year contract with Google Cloud, the Pittsburgh-based healthcare company said Thursday.

Highmark Health, which owns health insurer Highmark and health system Allegheny Health Network, on Thursday formally unveiled its “Living Health” model, a project that the company has said is designed to provide patients with better coordinated and more personalized care and clinicians with technology that cuts down on time spent on administrative tasks.

As part of the project, Highmark Health will work with Google Cloud to build a cloud-based platform that includes centralized scheduling, care management and analytics and artificial intelligence tools. Highmark Health and Google Cloud will also co-develop analytics tools that help create care plans from patients’ health data and flag possible health issues for early intervention.

Highmark Health is “at the very beginning of this work,” said Karen Hanlon, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Highmark Health, on a call with reporters Thursday. She said Highmark Health and Google Cloud expect to have an early version of the platform ready in about a year, but will continue to build on it after that.

Highmark Health plans to add an estimated 125 new jobs related to analytics, cloud computing, user experience design and application development to support development of the platform.

Highmark Health and Google Cloud haven’t determined what technologies will be rolled out to patients, but collaborators said the project will likely include web and app components.

The cloud platform will underpin Highmark Health’s approach to its provider and insurance businesses moving forward, according to company officials. Patients will be able to opt-in or opt-out of some components of the Living Health model, like programs for specific health conditions.

“The healthcare experience as it exists in America today is unsatisfying at best,” said Dr. Tony Farah, Highmark Health’s executive vice president and chief medical and clinical transformation officer, on the call. “It’s complex, fragmented, and—for the most part—it’s reactive.”

Highmark Health is the latest example of a healthcare organization partnering with a technology company for cloud and analytics services. One of the most high-profile cloud deals to date is a data-sharing partnership between St. Louis-based Ascension and Google, which last year drew public concern over patient privacy and sparked a federal probe.

Hanlon in a statement said Highmark Health selected Google Cloud because it “share(d) our sense of urgency and purpose in reinventing the health experience.”

Highmark Health will maintain control over access and use of its patient data, according to the companies. The companies will create a joint Highmark Health-Google Cloud Data Ethics and Privacy Review Board to review sharing and use of patient data against “ethical principles, guidance and customer expectations of privacy,” reads a news release from the two companies.

Highmark Health in August reported $9 billion in operating revenue in the first half of 2020, roughly $7 billion of which it attributed to its insurance business and roughly $2 billion of which it attributed to its provider business. The company reported $511 million in net income, down from $629 million reported during the same period last year.

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