IBM suggests how social business can work for healthcare, retail, govt

Summary:To further encourage how social business can be put to work, IBM and friends offered a deep dive for how these technologies can be used to improve healthcare, retail, and government.

Orlando: The big topic at IBM Connect this year is how social media and big data are changing the way we do business.

On Tuesday, the discussion started shifting away from booming rhetoric toward how these technologies are actually being implemented and producing change.

Here's an overview of three industries where IBM touted social business philosophies and methods are already making strides.


Bill Fandrich, chief information officer of Blue Cross Massachusetts, suggested that to understand how to enable social business changes is to understand the "ever-changing technology marketplace" as well as the healthcare system.

"All of you are going to make a very important decision this year--different from the ones you've ever made before," Fandrich asserted, continuing on to say that's because the healthcare industry is going through a significant change too.

Describing Massachusetts as a "canary in the coal mine," Fandrich noted that the state launched its own revamped healthcare scheme ahead of the rest of the nation in 2006. What made it experimental, he said, was the new "retail-like" business model, making insurance companies more competitive.

"The solutions we put in place need to evolve with advancements not on the market yet," Fandrich said.

But Fandrich added that the retail model has also driven the demand for information.

At Blue Cross Massachusetts, Fandrich outlined the insurance company's member data breakdown as a "360-degree view" of each user broken down to member savings, clinical information, grouper information, and multi-channel touch points (wellness and primary risk programs).

Fandrich stressed both the amount of data that insurance companies accumulate from a multitude of sources and the need to draw better decisions from it, describing that "we are the glue and integrator" connecting consumers, providers, and regulators together. Some examples of the data fueling in ranges from purchasing cycles to family needs, benefits, and services.

But what might be most important--at least technology wise--is room to scale.

Fandrich recalled that when the CEO asks what his five-year plan is, he just laughed and said, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Fandrich added that "the focus isn't specific solutions" but an adaptable but comprehensive approach that will enable live-changing and life-saving decisions.

"The solutions we put in place need to evolve with advancements not on the market yet," Fandrich said, noting that when Blue Cross Massachusetts first teamed up with IBM, the iPhone and iPad weren't even available yet.

Now, Fandrich said, they're the most used devices by Blue Cross members when accessing information about their benefits.

Topics: CXO, Big Data, Enterprise Software, Government, IBM, Social Enterprise


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider,, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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