AHIP Institute Trip Report: Business Process Management & Workflow Engines

This year’s 2016 America’s Health Insurance Plans conference in Las Vegas was my second AHIP Institute and Expo. Last year and this year I focussed on workflow tech in healthcare, specifically Business Process Management (BPM) and workflow engines.

I tweet lot and I try to be substantive in my tweets (as in summaries of conversations, quotes from keynotes, etc). I’ve found that collecting some of these tweets into a blog post is a fast and efficient way to remember and reflect back on ideas, themes, people, and products I encountered. Let’s start with the vibe! One of my most popular tweets was this panorama of the AHIP audience from the back of the room. Thank you AHIP for including it (first!) in your Social Media Buzz from Day 1 of AHIP Institute & Expo 2016.

AHIP Panorama

Heading into AHIP I interviewed Scott Polansky about what we could expect at AHIP (BPM & Healthcare Q&A with Scott Polansky, Appian Practice Lead for Healthcare Payers).

If there was a zeitgeist that could be boiled down to one word, there certainly was competition! Engagement? Interoperability? “Action-ability”? (I know, not a word). But if I was forced to settle on s single, solitary work, it’d be: Simplification. Take a look at my most popular tweet!

In fact, I tweeted the same diagram during AHIP 2015, and it was also quite popular.

Here is the interesting thing. The complexity of the diagram struck a chord in 2015 and 2016. In both tweets I mention “Business Process Management.” Now, do I think folks RTed because I mentioned BPM? No. I think folks simply like the idea that something needs to be done to simplify health insurance (and if BPM might be helpful, sure, why not? The more the merrier!).

But I do wish to focus on the BPM at AHIP. I participated in a blab about innovation during AHIP. Almost the entire blab, I’m sure due to my stubborn persistence, was about how Business Process Management is rapidly seeping into healthcare, health IT, and health payer IT. If you are a video-visual person, you could do a lot worse than watching this Youtube of that blab (start about 6:30 to skip introductions and get to the substance).

Last year, since it was my first AHIP (focusing on healthcare insurance payer IT) while I poked around looking for evidence of what academics call “process-aware” IT, I spent most of my time simply trying to understand the health plan space and workflows. This year I searched every exhibitor website for “Business Process Management” or BPM or “workflow engine” and came up with a list of 14 companies, out of almost 200 exhibitors. I then created a set of questions about BPM/workflow tech that I could use to systematically visit and dialogue with these progressive members of the health insurance plan payer community. The questions were just a framework. In some cases, some questions didn’t apply. In every case, new topics organically inserted themselves into the conversation. And, finally bowing to convention, I got a selfie with denizens of each booth. And tweeted out a short précis of what we discussed.

I only made it through seven of the fourteen vendors with interesting workflow angles (plus one), but I had previously prioritized the order so I feel I got a very good sense of the current state of Business Process Management -style tech at AHIP.



I started my tour of workflow duty at the Intersystems booth. By the way, I actually used their object-oriented Caché database back in the ’90s. When I Google “Business Process Management” during HIMSS, and now AHIP, Intersystems always occurs near the top (their Ensemble tech, on which HealthShare is based). I had a great convo with Clint, Clayton, and Brian about the nitty-gritty of what it takes to empower users and organizations with intelligent, flexible workflow. They get it! I’d love to go into more detail here, but if I did, for every vendor, this post would be 10,000 words long. So let me just leave this as this. C, C, and B, I’m greatly looking forward to more world-class conversations about BPM in healthcare.


I’ve been following Box relative to workflow since 2014 (see my Box Brings Cloud-Based, Intelligent, Open Workflow Engine to Healthcare) Recently I’ve seen demos of their Orion workflow technology, which allows Box users to create their own automatically triggered, executed, monitored, and managed workflows, driven by their content stored in Box (the “user-driven process management” in the following tweet). Great to see Box adding workflow tech to their already sophisticated cloud/content tech. I look forward to seeing Orion’s growth and evolution. I could write another couple thousand words here, but I already gotta move on the next AHIP exhibitor vendor with a cool workflow tech story. :)


Virtusa Polaris was an interesting conversation because, unlike Intersystems and Box, they don’t sell software. They sell the ability to understand a healthcare customer and to design, implement, deploy, and management business process management solutions in healthcare. I’m reminded of early days, when clinical folks needed IT folks to implement EHRs. Workflow is a whole other layer and wrinkle. Traditional health IT folks know about data and databases really really well. About workflow and workflow tech? Not so much. Healthcare BPM consulting organizations such as V-P fill that void. Again, I could write a lot more about Virtusa, but I gotta move on in this particular post.


This was a very interesting conversation with Nick Bennett of Cognizant about their TranZform product. But instead of me telling you what Nick said, just skip to the next tweet below and play the embedded 30 video of nick explaining how TranZform uses digital workflow, from enrollment to outcomes, to transform healthcare.

Play it! :)


The following conversation was interesting because Availity wasn’t actually on my initial list. However, they saw me tweeting about AHIP vendors and workflow and basically demanded I come to their booth. I’m glad I did. As Mark Martin explained, they provide the APIs (and a portal) which can be consumed by workflow tech. In fact, if you think about it, even if you have the best workflow engine in the world, you still need the data you need to achieve whatever strategic goal you set. Availity goes beyond currently, typically available standard APIs to empower necessary administrative workflow between healthcare organizations. I love it. Thank you for your enthusiasm, seeing my #AHIPinstitute tweets, and reach out about this important topic.

Kofax (Lexmark)

Kofax was interesting to me because of the way they combine a traditional (but still seldom seen in healthcare) workflow technology, a workflow engine executing workflows created with a workflow editor, with sophisticated document capture, from scanning paper to parsing emails to etc. They showed me an example of automatically understanding a form, and then moving that structured data through a structured workflow, in which lots of workflow stuff happened automatically: archiving, notifying, escalating, etc. And, since these workflow are created in a workflow editor, non-programmers can change the workflow behavior to best suit their needs and preferences.

Viva la workflow (editor)!


Here is my selfie with the Softheon folks…

Here the the web page on the Softheon that got me to their booth…

And here is a tweet linking to an excellent article by Softheon’s CEO about how BPM is new to healthcare, what is BPM, and why healthcare needs BPM.


My last stop during the last day of the AHIP exhibit hall was the Appian BPM booth. Appian’s product is fascinating, because it allows non-programmers (non-Java/C#/MUMPS) to create from scratch, in a matter of weeks, sophisticated workflow apps running on a wide variety of devices. After you design your forms and draw your workflow, native iPhone, iPad, and Android apps are literally one radio-button click away. If the idea of “citizen developer” intrigues you, I hope you’ll ready my lengthy interview with Scott Polansky (@sppolan1 on Twitter), who is on Appian’s health plan payer side.

But I’ll end with a quote from Fritz Hamburger, who is on Appian’s provider side.

“Great to see workflow [in healthcare] takeoff, since Appian does it so well!”

LOL That’s the spirit!

By the way, at this year’s AHIP I successfully recruited Fritz to Twitter! You can follow him at @AppianHealth.

Anyway. AHIP Institute, my second, was awesome. Both in generally, because I got to seem so many HITsm tweeps (see below), because I am seeing a surge workflow tech and business process management too.

By the way, follow me on Twitter, Periscope, and Blab!

@wareFLO On Periscope!


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