Community//

Rajeev Ronanki of Anthem: “Keep it simple”

Healthcare works better when all its parts work together in ways that are easier, when data and services are interoperable to make healthcare simpler and work better for consumers, and when it’s more responsive for the people that depend on it. A platform approach lets leaders and innovators address challenges with more speed and agility […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

Healthcare works better when all its parts work together in ways that are easier, when data and services are interoperable to make healthcare simpler and work better for consumers, and when it’s more responsive for the people that depend on it. A platform approach lets leaders and innovators address challenges with more speed and agility than before. This connected system allows for an exchange of data, information, and insights across partners internally and externally– facilitating a nimbleness that leads to innovations that can occur with best-in-class business partners and make it easier for our consumers to lead healthier lives.

This is why we’re so passionate about using our portfolio to make data, insights, and predictions not only available, but ubiquitous. Most recently, the agility of the platform approach enabled us to respond to COVID-19 by pivoting quickly to develop and offer C19 Explorer. Developing and delivering digital solutions to address real-world needs in real time would not have been possible without the agility of our platform approach.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rajeev Ronanki, SVP & Chief Digital Officer for Anthem, Inc. Rajeev leads Anthem’s transformation into a digital-first enterprise focused on creating personalized health experiences that are predictive and proactive for consumers. Through these efforts, Rajeev is enabling Anthem to harness the power of AI and data to better understand healthcare consumers and enable predictive, proactive and personalized healthcare. His experience spans more than 20 years of innovation-driven industry and social change across healthcare and technology.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My experience and passion for exponential technologies, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain and creating a positive impact at scale, led me down career choice at the intersection of healthcare, data and technology. Healthcare has the greatest potential to be transformed through innovation and the application of technology, led by a human-centered design approach.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Like so many others, the pandemic has had a direct impact on my career. Through the pandemic, I’ve been interested to see new applications of technologies and the rapid pace of development they’ve reached in the market.

For example, we’ve been able to introduce digital services that help consumers assess their risk for the coronavirus, connect with a healthcare provider virtually and identify testing sites — all of which have been important during these challenging times. Earlier this year in April, one of my friends called up one evening and said that he had some Covid19-like symptoms and wasn’t sure if he wanted to go the ER, given the hospital capacity issues at that time. I asked him to download our Sydney Care app and use it to determine what he ought to do. He did so and consulted a doctor via text, after triaging his symptoms. Turns out he had spring-time allergies since he had recently moved to Los Angeles. Thanks to the app, we now have a new Anthem customer and story to tell his kids.

We’re also collaborating with technology companies and health experts on C19 Explorer, a public utility that gives government officials, healthcare providers and community leaders tools and insights to make informed decisions around reopening and return-to-workplace.

Can you tell us about the “bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs thatyou are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Currently, I’m focused on leading a team at Anthem that’s innovating new ways to make healthcare simpler, more accessible, and more transparent for the people who use it. Over the past few years, we’ve been driving forward with a platform-based approach to usher in a new era of healthcare. Today we’re seeing that approach bring tools, resources and information together into a single and integrated ecosystem that harnesses the power of data, technology, and AI to enhance the consumer experience.

Platforms have revolutionized many industries. In fact, a majority of the top 10 global companies — by market capitalization value — utilize platform approaches. Think of ride-sharing. The platform model in ride-sharing meant that it could expand and grow rapidly — bringing drivers and riders and consumers together in one ecosystem. A platform enables the creation of market, and for the ride sharing model, that meant easily adding services like electric scooters or home food delivery.

Now imagine that real-time, enhanced, seamless approach in healthcare. Healthcare industry leaders and decision makers need to be able to quickly innovate and re-imagine the tools and technologies that will enhance the healthcare experience by bridging the healthcare silos, anticipating and proactively addressing consumer needs, and empowering consumers to manage their healthcare. An approach based on a digital platform offers the building blocks needed for this type of future.

We also know that some of the most personal relationship exist between individuals and their care providers. Unfortunately, there is not an easy way for people to connect with their care team. We are changing this by developing solutions that leverage digital technologies, such as telehealth, so that people can receive the care they need, where they want.

How do you think this might change the world?

Healthcare works better when all its parts work together in ways that are easier, when data and services are interoperable to make healthcare simpler and work better for consumers, and when it’s more responsive for the people that depend on it. A platform approach lets leaders and innovators address challenges with more speed and agility than before. This connected system allows for an exchange of data, information, and insights across partners internally and externally– facilitating a nimbleness that leads to innovations that can occur with best-in-class business partners and make it easier for our consumers to lead healthier lives.

This is why we’re so passionate about using our portfolio to make data, insights, and predictions not only available, but ubiquitous. Most recently, the agility of the platform approach enabled us to respond to COVID-19 by pivoting quickly to develop and offer C19 Explorer. Developing and delivering digital solutions to address real-world needs in real time would not have been possible without the agility of our platform approach.

When we work together across an integrated ecosystem, we can eliminate the chance of fragmentation and poor interoperability. In its place, we offer an open arena where innovative ideas and the most pressing needs are brought together and integrated into a whole. We’ve seen this integration open doors to rapid business model innovation and re-imagination of our processes to better serve our world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

As leaders, we are responsible for thinking about how new technology may not always turn out the way we intended. We must therefore always be thinking and planning ahead.

To discuss one example, people are right to be sensitive to the use of their health data. At Anthem, we believe consumers should be the owners of their data, and data privacy and security are a top priority in everything we create. We hold our partners and other stakeholders to the same standards with any of our consumers’ data.

We’re also concerned about the potential for technology to be discriminatory. Headline after headline has shown that technologies like artificial intelligence can gravitate toward assumptions that are racist, sexist, etc. If we are to create technology that is truly beneficial to healthcare consumers, we must do so in a way that addresses, and corrects, these biases.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Our evolution to a platform approach addresses the complex issues that have been around for decades –a fragmented healthcare system. We are taking this direction because it is our desire to deliver a simpler, enhanced experience that gives consumers what they need when they need it — rather than leaving them to manage a number of touchpoints on their own.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Partnership. Solving the fragmentation in healthcare takes a new model in which public and private organizations work together. The power of the platform approach is that it enables nimble product development inside and outside the organization to put healthcare in the hands of the consumers.

We’re hopeful that the widespread adoption of a platform approach will benefit not only healthcare providers, but also the consumers they serve — allowing them to deliver more proactive care, which will in turn help consumers feel more empowered and knowledgeable, arming them with health recommendations that are 100 percent personalized to their own unique situation.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We’re working hard to get the word out across a number of key audiences and communities because we believe so deeply in what we’re doing. As we look toward the future of healthcare, we think our digital strategy will yield a consumer-centric outcome — an exponential improvement in health and wellbeing that consumers can feel first-hand. We can do this by influencing the healthcare landscape and shaping the healthcare experience as new and innovative solutions emerge.

We know that we can’t do this alone. In fact, one of the best ways to get the word out through new partnerships. One way in which Anthem is building those partnerships is through our Anthem Digital Incubator (ADI) initiative, which provides entrepreneurs with funding, unique growth and educational opportunities, and customized coaching for their innovative solutions. When ADI launched in September, both virtually and with dedicated space in the Palo Alto, Calif., office — it was the first payer-led development program. We hope it won’t be the last.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve been fortunate to have an immense amount of help over the years and very grateful for all the mentorship and support that have shaped my career and outlook on life. While I can’t list all the individuals that have helped along the way, I owe a special thanks to the late Gene Roddenbery, the creator of Star Trek. I met Gene in the late eighties. I grew up watching Star Trek, so it was a delight to meet him. We corresponded frequently to talk about the science behind some of the fictional gadgets and concepts in Star Trek — the Tricorder, the Communicator and the Warp Drive. His fervent belief was that these gadgets will some-day make their way into real-life. His unwavering belief and a sense of wonder about technologies led me down the path of studying and applying exponential technologies in our daily lives. The X-Prize foundation launched a competition to invent the tricorder. A company called The Final Frontier Medical Devices won the competition. Anthem is currently working with the X-Prize foundation to find a low-cost, high-speed testing solution for Covid19.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

What drives me is helping people live healthy lives in healthy communities. When we say we’re taking a platform-centric approach to offering digital-first healthcare solutions and services, what that means is that we believe we can deliver a simpler healthcare experience that gives consumers the services they need when and where they need them, making things easier for healthcare providers and for consumers.

Our commitment to building healthier communities is what our company is built on, and we know that this work won’t be easy. It will take all of us, working together, each and every day.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

When it comes to developing future-thinking tools and solutions, the best way to learn is by doing — by trying and failing and trying again. But, if I had to share my biggest lessons, it would be:

1. Keep it simple: Ultimately, that is what you are trying to achieve with technology: new ways to make life easier. Keeping this in mind helps me put the consumer at the center of everything we do.

2. Collaborate often: Simplifying healthcare takes partnership. No one company or person can do it. We must welcome new perspectives and approaches on how we organize, operate, and behave as we all have opportunity for growth and development.

3. Think big picture: Similarly, there isn’t one product or tool that will solve healthcare. I’ve learned that the end goal must be not just to create new tools, but to create new ways to make those tools. That’s what the platform approach does.

4. Don’t wait: COVID-19 put our platform approach to the test. We were fortunate that it had been tested and developed over years for application during crisis. If I learned anything, it’s that consumer needs can change in an instant, so we as leaders must be agile and adaptive, and ready to create and deliver the tools that are needed in any moment.

5. Focus on the future: The healthcare industry has been forever impacted by COVID-19, and it will create new needs that we cannot predict. We need to think about the tools and technologies that solve not just the problems of today but empower us to solve the problems of tomorrow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’m inspired every day to power the movement in healthcare toward a digital-first approach that simplifies healthcare for consumers. This is needed now more than ever.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” Albert Einstein. I always used this as inspiration to challenge the status-quo and have the courage to follow my heart and intuition, both personally and professionally.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

While our organization is not VC funded, we partner with many organizations that are. My call to early investors would be to look for those companies that are willing to collaborate and partner within healthcare rather than looking to tackle our industry’s most complex problems on their own. The platform approach lets us create a collaborative, innovative ecosystem alongside our best-in-class partners, all in service of building solutions to today’s most pressing healthcare issues. We truly believe that we’re building the health ecosystem of the future, a digital door to all things health. Anthem’s Digital Platform approach allows us to build tomorrow’s healthcare today: a system that is simpler and connected and healthcare predictive, proactive and personalized for everyone.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can find me on both LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

The Future of Healthcare: “We need to incorporate the social determinants of health” with Bill Miller, CEO of WellSky

by Christina D. Warner, MBA
Community//

The Future of Healthcare: “Making sick and injured people go somewhere for care instead of bringing it to them is less than ideal” with Milton Silva-Craig, CEO of Q-Centrix

by Christina D. Warner, MBA
Community//

The Future Of Healthcare With Justin Bellante, CEO of BioIQ

by Christina D. Warner, MBA
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.