The role of the CIO in this competitive and more digitally-enabled landscape is changing. No longer are they simply responsible for the information technology and systems that support their organization’s goals. They are also stepping up and integrating themselves in the bigger picture.

James Indino talking about how PhilCare is accelerating the healthcare industry

James Indino of PhilCare is such. Working as the VP for Information Technology Group, he is not like your ordinary CIO. He tells us this story of how his organization, PhilCare, one of the leading brands in health insurance in the country, is taking the charge in app innovation in the field of healthcare investment.

Truth Before Tech
In a country with a health care infrastructure that is fragmented and inequitable, it’s a challenge to encourage Filipinos to invest in healthcare. But PhilCare is optimistic that other markets are well-prepared for this investment. The continuous growth of the BPO industry and the digital market are two sectors the organization is focusing on.

Apart from these two large sectors helping health investment companies maintain their market share, private individuals are getting into it as well. “Even moms are realizing it is better now to invest in medical insurance, compared to when they have to do out of pocket expense,” says James. This increase in their presence in the market inspired him, primarily an IT professional, to look into the ways with which their team manage and operationalize the bulk of data they have.

“Maintenance is hefty,” James comments about the POS system PhilCare used to have. Before he joined Philcare, they were using POS terminals to validate members eligibility and it would take commissioning 200 engineers nationwide to ensure they were all properly working. Other HMO’s deploy over 1,000 devices spread nationwide, all of which need regular looking after by their professionals.

Not only was this highly inefficient in terms of workforce management, it was also expensive. Almost P9M was allotted for the POS terminals alone, while there were nearly a hundred of them left unused. Hospitals were hard to comply, as POS requires a landline, which they have to pay on their own. Not only was it clunky, it used up electricity.

A regular IT professional would probably have tried to fix this problem by reworking the terminal, or helping around maintenance. But James is not a typical IT guy. It challenged him and pushed him to go out.

Insights Lead to Innovation
Unlike most CIOs, James spends most of his time going out and talking to actual end users. This allowed him access to their insights on consumer experience of their product, as well as their view on the whole health infrastructure of the country.

“You will get a lot of their stories, and you feel that you can do a lot with it,” James says of his experience of talking to consumers. When he goes back to their office, he already has the idea for what he wants to do. “Tech is easy enough. It’s the change of management that’s really hard,” he says when he shares about the journey behind PhilCare’s mobile-first transformation.

James had an idea in mind, but for it to get to motion, he will need support from his management. This is a common scenario. Leaders who want to be the digital evangelist of their company will encounter this roadblock along the way. It’s not easy changing mindsets used to the traditional way of doing things.

He tried to sell an idea to the management, but as in all organizations there would always be skeptics. How do you make it work? they asked, but already implying it wasn’t going to work. So James and his team kept the project low profile. “The only thing keeping my people intact is their excitement once we are able to deliver,” he recalls as his team worked behind the project.

The ITG Team. (L-R) Louie Mendiola, Hanna Natividad, Israel Gamilla, Jaymar Jimenez, Rosaleen Sales, Kurt Magboo, Regina Lelis, Alex Panganiban, Lloyd Lazaro, Julius Catapang, Ryan Jason Mata, Arlene Tangalin, James Indino, Robert Abaigar, Abelard Samson, Jaypee Delos Reyes, Adrian Tejada, Jordan Tay, Joel Rocero, Meijielyn Billones, Jennifer Manongsong, Jonathan Ang, Anjannette Pantaleon, Jed Romasanta

It took almost four years for the providers to reach 90+% usage compliance for our PhilCare SNAP, an app that works through NFC, or Near-Field Communication, a technology that enables two devices to talk to each other by bringing one in close contact with the other. NFC is often used in contactless payment systems, like the beep cards commuters use when using the privately-owned Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit, the main train systems around Manila.

Through this app, the typical 5-min call transaction where a member has his eligibility validated and LOA created is shortened via a mere tap. The member is immediately off to the doctor or the laboratory. PhilCare is the only organization with this kind of tool.

They went campaigning nationwide around hospitals and clinics and received very good reception. Unlike the old POS terminal, they now only needed to use a phone. They didn’t need to pay for the bill of the clunky telephone and even the customers were happy that the process was sped up.

“We have a command center that can see all activities,” James describes the process that goes behind PhilCare SNAP. As the app enables hospitals and clinics to skip the call centers, and the data goes directly to their cloud platform.

“You always try to look at how you can make things better,” James says. They are working on building an AI component to the app to limit the risk of subjectivity when it comes to medical assessments.

Flexibility and Scalability
SQL server is the core foundation of PhilCare’s solutions offering. It is where all their deployed NFC devices draw information nationwide via API requests. “It is what powers our API trade with our very robust digital sales thru Facebook or direct through our e-commerce site,” James explains.

The Flagship HeyPhil App is serving the app’s growing 52k+ user-base and is powered by SQL server database. James is hoping that more PhilCare members will download and use the app soon because of its many benefits. The app allows users enhanced search engine for doctor and hospital. HeyPhil also allows them to quickly create Letter of Authorization (LOA) for Consultation and view medical benefits. Members can as well be updated on health bulletins on a regular basis.

“While forming our rapidly expanding ecology, I foresee more need into the Microsoft database as well as its development platform (VSTS) as we look into the future and as we expand our digital footprint by partnering with leading institutions to provide service and convenience to our members,” he says about the scalability of their core application, helping them expand the capabilities of their innovation.

PhilCare’s HeyPhil app

James says it wouldn’t all have been possible if their core application was not that of Microsoft. Their mother data base was very vital to their innovation of the app and its scalability has taken them a long way. “It was a meticulous move,” James comments on their migration path, but he is happy about the progress his team has made.

“Ako pa lang yung talagang digital immigrant sa amin. The rest is still thinking traditional,” he says. James has more things in mind for the organization and he recognizes the need for innovations like the app in the market. “They need to be transformed,” he says about his team.

Digital Transformation doesn’t happen over time, but perhaps, with James’ leadership, the team can be guided towards a future of transformed tech.

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