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Innovation Management

Culture of Innovation Video and Case Study: Cambia Health Solutions Transforms the Health Care Landscape Through Innovation

Published By Leyna O’Quinn

From inception, innovation has been at the core of Cambia Health—it’s truly in their DNA. Cambia is an exemplary example of how organizations can create a culture of innovation by engaging their most valuable resource—their people. This blog features a new video of how Cambia drives employee engagement through its Pitchwell program and features their case study centered around their “app-a-thon challenge,” focusing on “the big problems in healthcare”.

Pitchwell Video

Cambia Health Solutions program, Pitchwell, empowers women employees to pitch new ideas to transform health care. The video features the collaboration between the Women’s Employee Leadership Lab (WELL) and Cambia’s Innovation Force (IF) to advance idea development as a new format for professional mentoring, demonstrating the strong connection between innovation, diversity, and inclusion.

The Cambia Health Solutions Case Study: Creating a Culture of Innovation

Cambia Health Solutions is a nonprofit total health solutions company based in the Pacific Northwest / Intermountain region, serving consumers and communities for nearly 100 years. Cambia companies provide a wide range of products and services, including healthcare information technology and software development, retail healthcare, health insurance plans that carry the Blue Cross and Blue Shield brand, life insurance, pharmacy benefit management, consumer engagement, and wellness.

The Challenge

With growth and change, the business became bureaucratic, complex, and expensive. Our communities grew, but that created distance from one another. Health care had reached a breaking point. With great uncertainty in the US health care system, senior leadership at Cambia was committed to “embedding innovation into the company’s bloodstream,” to transform and disrupt the health care industry. We had to become a lightning rod of innovation, attracting and engaging employees to join us in ideation and design.” Innovation Force (IF), the internal team Nair leads, was born. At first, Cambia’s innovation team used a “homegrown technology,” which meant meeting with every individual who shared an idea on the company SharePoint site. This strategy was difficult to scale, lacked a way to organize around a topic, and was missing a clear pathway for moving ideas forward.

“The process wasn’t transparent. We needed to expose and grow great ideas, but there was still an obvious gap of igniters being unaware of one another.”

The Solution

“We started with some basic principles. For instance, we aren’t about ideas, we’re about people with ideas, our igniters,” said Mohan Nair Chief Innovation Officer, Cambia Health Solutions. That focus on people, rather than just ideas, led to the realization that if these igniters didn’t know about each other, then their true collective passion couldn’t be utilized.

Nair and his team turned to Planview IdeaPlace for help in 2012. Cambia picked Planview Planview IdeaPlace as it was most easily aligned with its company philosophy. “We wanted to ensure employees that they worked somewhere that was ‘caused-based’ rather than ‘profit-centric’. And that Cambia was not only focused on innovating but establishing a culture of innovation with a clear direction for where that innovation would lead us.” This revitalized set of principles and people focus would take Cambia to the next level of ingenuity.

This new energy was represented during an “app-a-thon challenge” presented to the employee base during the company’s Innovation Week. Solutions were sought for 8-10 different topics, all of which centered around “the big problems in healthcare”. From there, the Planview IdeaPlace platform enabled IF to apply its proprietary i5 process to grow the igniters and their ideas from concept to incubation. The teams grew their ideas with participation from the company. The top teams were brought in to pitch their concepts to the CEO and the executive team.

“Some ideas advanced toward implementation, some didn’t,” said Nair. “However, the top igniters were selected to assist in key initiatives. One app-a-thon participant was recruited by IF to build a solution that we’re currently using with the U.S. military,” said Nair. Another app-a-thon team broadened their idea and helped to research key elements of Cambia’s senior market strategy.

“When you value people more than their ideas, you find many ways to creatively deploy the great hearts and minds we have at Cambia,” said Nair.

These were clear successes, and an exciting cultural evolution was underway at Cambia.

“Our mission to transform the health care industry is not a small feat. Planview Planview IdeaPlace helps our organization to collaborate, become more transparent, and prioritize the most important business goals to further our market position, said Nair.

The Result

IF built upon these successes by continuing to refine its own proprietary i5 innovation process, providing employees with training in design thinking, and launching divisional challenges to help leaders innovate in their everyday business. Within a year, the team has over 7% of employees actively engaging in growing ideas and 84% of employees agreeing that Cambia encourages innovation. As a result, Cambia exceeded its board-level innovation engagement targets.

Cambia has also seen real return on investment from its innovation efforts. A recent challenge yielded $4 million in cost savings associated with process changes. Another igniter idea was turned into a new sales engagement tool, called Reform for Me, that has supported over $60 million in sales and renewals and is now being made available by IF to other health plans to help them work with employers on understanding reform impacts.

IF has adopted a coaching mentality to innovation. “To be seen as a credible team to share your idea with, it is critical that you actually show you can take an idea to market,” said Nair. When the IF team first formed, one of its first efforts was to launch Sprig Health, now a company within Cambia’s portfolio. IF also routinely “boosts” divisions that need help. For instance, when Medicare needed help improving its STARS ratings, the IF team was sought out for its ability to rapidly solve company challenges. IF was able to help the Medicare team reach the next STAR level which represented approximately $50M that can be directed to help lower Medicare costs and has a direct impact on members’ pocket books.

“By continuously practicing our craft of innovation at multiple levels, we remain relevant and avoid the perception of being theoretical or distant from everyday challenges,” said Nair.

It is truly amazing what can be accomplished and the ideas that can be generated from employee engagement programs like the one at Cambia Health. Kudos to the leaders for driving a culture of innovation. They are truly a pioneer in the industry. For more information about how to start your own innovation program to create a culture of innovation, check out a demo of Planview IdeaPlace at

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Written by Leyna O’Quinn Sr. Content Strategist

Leyna O’Quinn is a Certified Scrum Master and Certified SAFe Agilist. She has been managing the Planview blog strategy for more than 7 years. She writes about portfolio and resource management, Lean and Agile delivery, project collaboration, innovation management, and enterprise architecture. She has more than 15 years of experience writing about technology, industry trends, and best practices. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Marketing.