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Accenture helped Highmark reduce operating costs and launch ePlatform, repositioning customers as partners in changing business processes and streamlining their interactions with Highmark online.
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Highmark wanted to reduce operating costs—without going offshore and without significant additional investments in technology—and decided to launch ePlatform.
A dedicated business unit, this would give members the ability to conduct all key aspects of their business with Highmark online. The overall goal was to move one-third of Highmark's business—1.1 million members—to ePlatform in just four years.
Client BackgroundHighmark is one of the largest health insurers in the United States. The not-for-profit health services corporation serves 4.8 million people through the company's health care benefits business and also offers a wide variety of insurance and insurance-related products and services to 32.6 million people nationwide.
With health care costs rising steadily, Highmark's customers continue to demand reduced administrative expenses and more convenient choices. The company also faces mounting competition from large national payers moving into the regions that it serves.
Highmark decided that one way to achieve its goals and position itself for high performance would be to launch ePlatform, a dedicated business unit that would let its members conduct all key aspects of their business with Highmark online. By selling a self-service-enabled product and establishing a dedicated operating unit to support this product, Highmark aimed to provide more competitive pricing to both current and prospective customers—and to do it with 30 percent fewer personnel. Highmark's decision to establish ePlatform was supported by Accenture's ongoing research into the characteristics of high-performance health coverage providers. This suggests that industry leaders implement robust self-service options and customer service solutions to help them improve both the economics and the performance of their customer-contact operations.
Highmark knew, however, that it needed outside help to drive the changes necessary to achieve its ePlatform goals. The company turned to Accenture because of Accenture's ability to bring the business process and human performance best practices developed in its global business process outsourcing centers. Accenture also demonstrated its commitment to Highmark and ePlatform by linking a portion of Accenture's fees to achievement of the membership targets, service levels and cost reductions.
Accenture assembled a highly skilled team of resources from our Consulting and Business Services divisions who worked with Highmark to jointly develop the concept behind ePlatform. The program included setting up an entirely new business unit that would sell standardized benefits, drive the adoption of electronic channels, create end-to-end accountability for business processes and develop a culture that achieves high performance. The overall goal was to move one-third of Highmark's business—1.1 million members—to ePlatform in just four years.
Within seven months of the project's launch, a separate ePlatform operating unit was up and running and supporting 85,000 Highmark members. Accenture and Highmark immediately launched Phase 2 of the ePlatform project—the Improve and Transition Operations phase. In this phase, Accenture worked with Highmark to co-manage the new ePlatform unit for one year. The objectives were to achieve the target service levels and administrative cost savings and to then transition the management roles from Accenture personnel to Highmark. As co-manager, Accenture was responsible for continuously improving processes, driving cultural change, introducing supporting technology and helping the unit cope with dramatic membership growth.
Since ePlatform went live, membership has increased by 436 percent, growing from 85,000 to 456,000 members. Based on the marketplace's validation of the ePlatform product, Highmark is well on its way to transitioning 1.1 million members to these new products and new operating unit.
During the first year of operation, the ePlatform unit enabled Highmark to operate with 40 percent fewer employees while meeting its service level targets. More important, these results have proven sustainable over the long-term, even while membership soared and management of the unit was fully transitioned back to Highmark. Overall, Highmark is realizing substantial cost reductions from this project and expects to reduce operating costs by US$40 million over the next four years.
With ePlatform, Highmark has successfully reduced the cost of health care to the community it serves. The provider also has developed a differentiated product and is well positioned to sustain high performance in a challenging and rapidly changing health care market place.
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