Transforming Anthem Blue Cross into an AI-First Enterprise

August 19, 2020

In this episode of One Quick Thing, Mariya Filipova discusses how the innovation team at her organization is building Anthem’s AI capabilities. She also discusses running a challenge to develop faster, cheaper COVID-19 testing. Filipova is the Vice President of Innovation at Anthem, a health insurance provider. Anthem is a part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. 

Two takeaways from the conversation follow.

Becoming an “AI-First” Organization 

According to Filipova, innovation at Anthem focuses on accelerating the team toward becoming an “AI-first enterprise.” She explained, “[Being an] AI-first enterprise means when we encounter a problem statement — be it operational or related to cost of care — the first tool that we take out of our toolkit is artificial intelligence, machine learning or other technology related tools, rather than throwing people or money at the problem.” 

As a result of this mission, Filipova said her organization must also be “data driven.” Teams across the organization participate in training that can help them work with data sets. “We need to focus on data literally across all healthcare teams. Innovation team members have to go through basic bootcamp on AI data…so we are all cross-functional experts, irrespective which function in healthcare you belong to,” Filipova said. 

According to Filipova, developer communities outside of the company may also be granted access to work with select data sets. “We’re partnering actively with the best and brightest out there to problem solve together,” Filipova said. 

Working on COVID-19 Testing

In late July of this year, Anthem joined with six Blue Cross Blue Shield plans and the XPRIZE Foundation in a joint effort to explore rapid testing for COVID-19. The coalition began to screen nonprofits focused on testing with the plan of rewarding the best ideas. 

“We put together a $5 million prize competition, where the intent is to come up with a solution that is affordable — less than $5 or less than the cost of a coffee — rapid with 12 hours or less turnaround time, easy to use,” Filipova said. For example, she pointed to possible saliva-based swabs instead of nasopharyngeal swabs that must be inserted deep into participants’ nasal cavities.  

Filipova said the challenge was created for two reasons. Firstly, keeping the price point low would help people return to work, school, and aspects of pre-pandemic life. “Secondly, we’re really designing this challenge with the intent to scale,” she said. “And with that purpose, we’ve also set up a $50 million Apollo COVID project, where some of the most innovative VCs are partnering with us to fund additional work associated with the top finalists in this challenge.”