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How Independence Blue Cross does brainstorming

The health insurer opened its doors during Philly Tech Week for an “Ideas in Life Sciences” brainstorming event. Here's what came of it.

Independence Blue Cross Innovation Manager Michelle Histand leads a brainstorming session. (Photo by Salas Saraiya)

The idea for Philadelphia’s new bike-sharing program came out of an internal brainstorming session at Independence Blue Cross (IBX). That session lasted for almost two days, and ended with executives approving further work on the project.
That was two years ago. Last Friday, soon after the launch of the Indego bikes in Philadelphia, IBX held a condensed version of its brainstorming process for the general public. Twenty-five attendees joined the IBX Innovation team at their headquarters on the seventh floor of 1700 Market Street for a Philly Tech Week presented by Comcast event.
IBX Innovation Manager Michelle Histand guided the brainstorming session. Histand set out many of the general guidelines and used animals to give the concepts life.
For example, she held up the photo of an elephant to represent “greenhousing” — the concept of not judging others’ ideas and instead building upon them creatively. Attendees self-organized into small groups for brainstorming and were encouraged to draw prototypes in addition to describing solutions.
The attendees represented a broad variety of expertise from across the healthcare industry — from analytics consultants to social media marketers to practitioners working in physical therapy and general wellness. The attendees ranged in age from college age to senior citizens, and spanned racial lines as well.
Histand emphasized the role a diverse group of attendees can play in the brainstorming process. “We’re excited to have different perspectives. That’s the biggest thing,” she said. “If you have a group of all the same kinds of people, you’ll get ideas but you won’t get as many or as rich ideas.”
The diversity of attendees was reflected in the ideas that came out of the brainstorming. HealthPal was an idea to encourage senior citizens to become pen pals with a healthcare worker, to keep them engaged in their care. On the other end of the spectrum, University of Pennsylvania senior Nico Cernek proposed a peg leg made from a bike seat and a pole as a compromise between sitting and standing desks to keep people moving throughout the day.
Some of the attendees came to the session with ideas and wanted help developing them. Sean Walker, a mechanic turned rehab technician, came into the event with a 3D-printed splint he had designed as a replacement for casts. The splint was light and permeable, as opposed to casts which can be heavy and malodorous. Walker hoped to build a gamified version of rehab technology, so recovering patients could get a better idea of their progress as they performed repetitive tasks.
“Pinching potato chips 100 times gets really redundant,” explained Walker.
Rashaad Lambert grew up in West Philadelphia and leads an organization for the less fortunate called APIC Giveback. His group tackled the problem of chronic stress for those living with the everyday violence that can plague troubled neighborhoods and the post-traumatic stress that can affect those who leave those situations. One of the solutions Lambert outlined included an online chat to address some of the everyday challenges people living in high crime areas can face.
All ideas generated at the event are going to be examined further by the IBX innovation team to see if there is the potential for a future project like Indego. While this is one of the first times IBX has looked outside of its walls for ideas about the future of healthcare, Histand said it definitely won’t be the last.

Companies: Independence Blue Cross

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