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Innovation Management

How Premera Blue Cross Uses Innovation Software to Drive Employee Engagement

Published By Liz Llewellyn-Maxwell

Premera Blue Cross Innovation Software

When Premera Blue Cross needed a way to attract new customers and retain existing ones, they didn’t turn to a team of expert consultants or research firms. Instead, they went to the people closest to their customers – their employees. But Premera lacked the innovation software it needed to help gather those ideas and collaborate on them across the entire company.

That’s when they turned to the Planview Planview IdeaPlace innovation management solution to engage 3,200 employees working at home and at the company’s four campuses to generate 450 new ideas to improve healthcare – in just four days.

About Premera Blue Cross

Premera Blue Cross is the largest health plan in the Pacific Northwest, with more than 38,000 doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers serving more than 2 million members. The 86-year-old company provides insurance products and wellness consulting services to companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbucks. More than 3,200 Premera Blue Cross employees work daily to make healthcare work better for their customers.

The Challenge: Engage employees for new ways to improve the customer experience 

As the debate rages over healthcare, we increasingly hear about Americans who want to hang on to their existing healthcare plans. But does that mean they genuinely like the service and value they’re receiving from their healthcare providers? Two Gallup polls would indicate “yes,” while leaving plenty of room for improvement.

According to the polls conducted about this time last year, roughly seven out of every 10 Americans said they were fairly satisfied with the quality of their personal coverage. However, they were much less positive about healthcare in the U.S. in general, with only 55 percent giving healthcare plans a positive rating.

This split demonstrates the importance of healthcare innovation to keep customers happy, proactively solve their problems, and deliver new capabilities and services. Premera understands that innovation comes from experiences and insights gathered at the customer level. Through day-to-day interactions that put customers at the center of everything they do, Premera’s employees know far more about their customers’ pain points and frustrations than consultants, surveys, or industry reports.

However, those insights can only be learned by engaging with employees and giving them a voice, no matter their titles, roles, or location. With a remote workforce of 900 telecommuters and four locations, suggestion boxes were far from a practical approach. Premera needed to engage and collaborate with all employees for ideas. And they needed a way to track and move those ideas forward through the innovation process.

“We all realize that while we work in healthcare during the day, we go home to the 21st century,” said Torben Nielsen, former Premera Vice President of Innovation and Strategic Investments. “We still as an industry have a lot to learn from other industries in terms of how to put the customer at the center of what we do. To achieve that, we had to look within our company for ideas from everyone to come up with new ways to solve our customer pain points.”

The Solution: Give employees a voice and drive hundreds of new ideas with innovation software  

Premera’s innovation team turned to Planview Planview IdeaPlace Innovation Management Software that leverages crowdsourcing to help develop an environment where all employees have a voice and a platform to share their insights and collaborate on ideas.

Premera deployed Planview IdeaPlace across its entire workforce with one question: “As we make healthcare work better, how might we provide positive surprises to our customers and delight them?”

With Planview IdeaPlace, they created a Test Kitchen for employees to collaborate and cook up new ideas to improve the Premera customer experience. The kitchen was made up of three categories:

  1. Iron Chefs, consisting of 14 to 15 employees selected for their specific skill sets in areas such as product design, product development, customer service, and marketing.
  2. Recipes that were developed over time covering areas like design-thinking frameworks, pilots, and market scans.
  3. Ingredients to include issues like consumer pain points or business problems.

Results: Engaged Premera employees cook up 450 ways to improve healthcare

With the Planview IdeaPlace Test Kitchen, more than 70 percent of Premera’s employees submitted, commented, merged, voted, and built upon 450 ideas in just four days. They then leveraged Planview IdeaPlace’s pairwise comparison to review nearly 11,000 votes until the top 30 ideas remained. The solution’s scoring capability enabled a cross-functional committee of executives to prioritize and promote the best of those ideas.

“We saw immediately a lot of engagement. And we saw our working group and other people across the company really engage on the challenge and encourage each other to promote ideas and collaborate across platforms,” said Patti Brooke, Premera director of client and portfolio management.

“We knew all along our employees had the best ideas on how to improve healthcare. The collaboration in Planview IdeaPlace creates an innovation culture and gives our employees a home to offer real, actionable ideas we can leverage to improve the customer experience.”

Since the Planview IdeaPlace rollout, Premera employees are constantly bringing new ideas to the table to help improve the customer experience. Planview IdeaPlace is cultivating and promoting Premera’s culture of innovation and encouraging employees to take risks and solve real business problems.

But the value doesn’t stop at selecting winning ideas through innovation software. Premera understands the secret of being able to execute and deliver those ideas. The company has dedicated resources to bring the winning ideas to life. Between comfort boxes for newly diagnosed cancer patients, baby boxes for babies born in rural Alaska, and progress on how to reduce surprise medical bills, Premera Blue Cross is delivering employee-generated innovation to its customers and will continue to utilize crowdsourcing in their innovation toolkit.

To learn more about how Planview Planview IdeaPlace enables enterprises to manage the entire idea lifecycle – from idea to impact – visit

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Written by Liz Llewellyn-Maxwell Sr. Manager, Content Marketing

Liz leads the go-to-market content team at Planview. She worked at LeanKit prior to the company being acquired by Planview. With more than a decade of Lean-Agile marketing experience, Liz passionately believes in the transformative power that applying Lean-Agile principles can have on teams and organizations.