December 16, 2021 Episode 037

Size Doesn’t Matter: Innovation Happens Everywhere, Says Anthem’s Bryony Winn

Her background growing up in Zimbabwe and being educated in the U.K., before advising healthcare CEOs at McKinsey, gives Bryony Winn a unique perspective on U.S. healthcare that she uses to drive innovation at one of the country’s largest payers.

Size Doesn’t Matter: Innovation Happens Everywhere, Says Anthem’s Bryony Winn

Bryony Winn is a Zimbabwe native and Rhodes Scholar who says her background growing up in the developing world contributed to her innate desire to pursue a career with an element of social impact. And she says that background had a fundamental impact on the voice she brings to the U.S. healthcare market and to her leadership style.

Bryony spent the first decade of her career at McKinsey & Company providing strategic and operational counsel to a wide variety of clients across Europe and Africa. After relocating to the U.S. in 2011 and being named a Partner in McKinsey’s Chicago office, she worked with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMM) and advised numerous healthcare CEOs and government leaders seeking to improve systems of care and transform payment models.

After leaving McKinsey, Bryony spent two years as Chief Strategy Officer at Blue Cross North Carolina and then joined Anthem as Chief Strategy Officer. In September 2021, she was named President of Anthem Health Solutions where she is now responsible for ensuring that the more than 45 million consumers in Anthem’s family of health plans have access to high-quality, affordable care.

On this episode of Healthcare is Hard: A Podcast for Insiders, Bryony shared her perspective with Keith Figlioli on a number of topics, including:

  • The Fundamental roles of a payer. In Bryony’s view, there are two central issues that define a healthcare payer and its ability to deliver higher quality, lower cost care: how it partners, and how it pays. She points out that organizations signal what they value by the way they pay for care. For example, how paying for care that drives affordability and quality incentivizes collaboration.
  • Innovation inside incumbents. There’s a misconception that innovation is not occurring inside large incumbent healthcare organizations, according to Bryony. She says startups do not have a monopoly on smart people taking thoughtful approaches to the complexities and challenges of the U.S. healthcare system that have developed over decades. While the journey may be slower in these organizations, she says the difference is that they have a longer track record for sustainability – one of the most important factors in U.S. healthcare. She believes in approaching the market with a deep sense of humility for the people and companies that have come before us.
  • Advice for entrepreneurs. Bryony says so many potential partners and vendors looking to do business make promises on issue like financial savings or Medicare star ratings. She jokes that if she added up these promises, Anthem would be a 23-star plan. When asked how entrepreneurs and startups can work best with Anthem, she warns of the importance of honesty – but says it needs to come from both sides of the table. Startups should expect honesty from a large company on things like payment and implementation cycles. But they need to be honest about what they have actually delivered versus what they hope to deliver. Don’t pretend you have a track record when you do not, because if you’re honest about what you hope to deliver, a company like Anthem could work closely with you to help make it happen.

To hear Bryony and Keith talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard.