Humana CEO Bruce Broussard: Data analytics won’t succeed without human intervention

Female doctor talking to male patient in hospital bed
Analytics can identify at-risk populations, but algorithms won't give patients the care they need.

Like many of his colleagues, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard believes machines will play an important role in healthcare.

He also believes patients don’t want to get their medical diagnosis from a computer, and analytics can only take the industry so far when it comes to improving patient care.

In a LinkedIn post, Broussard recounted the story about a Humana Medicare Advantage member he called "Jimmy" that was identified through predictive analytics to be at risk for diabetes-related foot ulcers (DFU), a condition that costs the insurer approximately $400 million each year. Early identification of members at risk for DFU allows the insurer to take steps to prevent an amputation, which increases a patient’s risk for mortality.

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As Broussard explained, analytics were half the battle. Through Humana At Home, clinicians gradually helped the member get necessary specialty care and make lifestyle changes to improve his overall health. Analytics helped with the complex task of identifying an at-risk member, but human intervention instilled trust and drove behavioral changes. 

“Artificial Intelligence and other technologies will have a profound impact on health care,” Broussard wrote. “Yet technology alone cannot make you eat less. Or walk when you just want to sit. Or force you to call the doctor. Or, if you’re Jimmy, prevent you from developing a diabetic foot ulcer.”

During last month’s annual AHIP conference, Broussard said the industry needs to transition to a model that emphasizes provider partnerships, analytics and care integration. Earlier this year, Humana CMO Roy Beveridge, M.D. said the insurer is becoming an analytics company “more than anything else.”

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The healthcare industry is still exploring the delicate balance between the power of analytics and machine learning and the need for human touch. Venture capitalist Kapila Ratnam has said investors need to be aware of that dynamic since clinicians are the ones delivering patient care.

Last week, Harvard researchers said “absurdly outdated” medical education needs to include more emphasis on data science to ensure physicians have the skill set to effectively utilize new technology moving forward.