Quest Diagnostics CIO: An Agent Of Change - InformationWeek

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10/20/2015
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Quest Diagnostics CIO: An Agent Of Change

Quest Diagnostics CIO Lidia Fonseca aptly describes herself as an "agent of change." Under her guidance, Quest is evolving as a diagnostic services company with a host of new data-driven services on the horizon for healthcare providers. Here are the details.

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Quest Diagnostics is best known for its medical testing services, but like many healthcare-related companies, Quest is looking to move its business into the future. That means leveraging medical data and other types of information it collects every day.

Such was the charter that brought CIO Lidia Fonseca to Quest Diagnostics in February 2014. Fonseca describes herself as an agent of change. Under her leadership the company has been piloting several new data-driven analytics services in 2015 that it will launch commercially in 2016.

"We really are a diagnostic services company," Fonseca told InformationWeek in an interview. "We have one of the largest clinical databases – 20 billion test results in our environment."

[Looking for more on how healthcare CIOs are transforming medicine with data? Read Blue Cross CIO: Big Data Can Fix Healthcare Quality, Costs.]

That's a lot of data, and Quest Diagnostics wants to use it to drive enhanced insights for medical care, and offer those insights to healthcare providers in order to drive new revenue streams for the company.

Quest Diagnostics' data analytics initiatives are part of a larger business model transformation underway at the Madison, NJ-based company, which reported $7.4 billion in revenues for 2014. The company processed 156 million medical test requisitions during that calendar year. Its testing services touch about one-third of adults in America.

Why did such a big company look to make changes? Quest Diagnostics was successful, but its growth had stagnated in recent years. The company had been relying on acquisitions to increase revenue. So three years ago the company created a strategy to spur growth again. One of the goals called for streamlining operations. As part of that initiative, Quest opened its Lab of the Future to showcase the wide range of services it offers customers.

Revenue in 2014 yielded some initial revenue growth -- about 4% year-over-year. Yet much of the promise of the data-driven analytics projects under Fonseca will begin to be realized in 2016.

All of these projects leverage Quest's vast repository of data to gain insights and improve medical outcomes. Fonseca said it's about transforming Quest's platform for growth, and elevating the position of the company in the market. Quest announced several new services during the HIMSS 2015 Annual Conference & Exhibition in April 2015.

Quest Diagnostics Lab of the Future in Marlborough, MA.
(Image: YouTube via Quest Diagnostics)

Quest Diagnostics Lab of the Future in Marlborough, MA.

(Image: YouTube via Quest Diagnostics)

Intellitest Analytics is one of the first of these services. It is a web-based secure portal that provides insights around something the healthcare industry calls utilization management. In this case, the service offers business analysis of clinically appropriate testing norms, payer types, and costs.

"We have a pretty significant number of hospitals that are piloting this," Fonseca told InformationWeek. "This really gives hospitals an overview of their utilization management. Hospitals have been consolidating, and they want to be able to benchmark different locations. We are offering them the utilization management tools to help them better manage clinical and financial goals."

Another service is Interactive Insights. This one is part of Quest's Care360 brand, the company's cloud-based electronic health record (EHR) service offered to physician practices. Interactive Insights adds an analytic component to the service, providing a web-based reporting solution. This further provides context-relevant health insights to the doctor and the patient based on the patient's lab data. It's intended to improve decision making by doctors and patients.

Another service under development is called Population Health. It creates benchmarks for cohorts of patients by comparing data to larger populations. For example, this service could look at the data of a cohort of diabetic patients under a healthcare organization's care – say a hospital -- and evaluate them against national benchmarks for such patients. There's also the potential for monitoring individual patients to enable compliance and intervention if necessary.

All these projects have something in common. They take data that is already being collected and apply analytics to create a new product that adds value for Quest's customers, whether they are hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, or patients.

And there's another trend here, too.

"There's a big shift from treating the sick to keeping people well," Fonseca told InformationWeek. "We are looking to keep somebody well through the entire life cycle."

Quest Diagnostics CIO Lidia Fonseca.
(Image: Quest Diagnostics)

Quest Diagnostics CIO Lidia Fonseca.

(Image: Quest Diagnostics)

With that in mind, it's not surprising that one of the trends she sees on the horizon for data-driven medicine is an increased use of wearables, not only for the consumer market but for healthcare, too. On the consumer side, you may know them as a FitbitNike Fuel Band, or Up by Jawbone. The information collected by these, and other more specialized medical devices, could become a bigger part of healthcare.

"We are not just looking at the clinical aspects," Fonseca said. "We are also looking at the [lifestyle] choices that individuals are making for us to be able to say 'how do we keep you well?' That means you will start to see a blend of clinical and also lifestyle and history to get a good picture of that individual. You will see more wearables and more monitoring."

As for overall trends in healthcare IT, Fonseca believes organizations are moving to enable greater interoperability. "A company like Quest is a piece of a wider workflow, and interoperability has been in our DNA, so we are well poised," she said. "Companies that can connect the dots and integrate have the advantage. They are already there. Then it's just a matter of scale."

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, ... View Full Bio

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