Cintrifuse's Spry Labs holding a 'data jam' to help Humana ease process of finding a dentist

It could be just what the doctor ordered

CINCINNATI -- Humana Inc. wants to create a sort of Match.com for its customers and the health care providers that take care of them.

The Louisville-based insurance giant has contracted with Spry Labs, a division of Over-the-Rhine-based Cintrifuse, to help make that happen.

To solve the problem, they're taking a page from the startup playbook and putting on something very similar to a hackathon.

It's called a data jam, and it happens Sept. 29-30 at Union Hall, where nonprofit startup advocate Cintrifuse has its offices.

About 30 participants in teams from as far away as Washington, D.C., are expected to participate, said Cintrifuse Director of Marketing Eric Weissmann.

The teams have all been carefully vetted to get top talent to the table, Cintrifuse Director of Development Patrick Henshaw said.

That's the main difference between the data jam and a hackathon, which is commonly open to anyone who wants to participate.

The winning team will receive $5,000 cash from Humana and the opportunity to possibly partner with the company in building out the solution.

"What we're looking for is people we could go arm-in-arm with to solve the problems," Humana Vice President of Commercial Service Operations Liz Wallace said.

Teams include one composed of six students from Northern Kentucky University; team leader Elizabeth Linville is in the master of health informatics program. Health informatics is about taking data and making it usable in the health care world, Linville said.

She's never done anything like this before, she said, and doesn't know what to expect, but she thinks it will be a good experience for the students.

The teams' job will be to create a better way for Humana customers to choose a dental provider, Wallace said.

That can be a daunting task for customers, she said, who typically go to a variety of sources to find one -- family members, friends, social-media platforms.

Finding the right provider is an industry-wide problem that's not unique to Humana, said Jennifer Day, director of innovation strategy for Humana's commercial group.

It should be as easy as walking down the aisle at a Kroger store and picking out your favorite flavor of ice cream, Linville said, but it's not.

"It can be really difficult, because the data is not kept up to date and you're culling data from a lot of different sources," she said.

Humana has high hopes for the data jam, Wallace said, but it's possible no one will come up with a good solution.

"If it were an easy thing to solve, it would have been solved," she said.

On the other hand, she said, "we would not have access to all these great outside thinkers and doers if not for this process.

"There is a win for us, simply in that great exchange of ideas," she said.

Humana has about 1,500 employees in the Cincinnati area, Day said, most of them either pharmacy associates or customer service workers.

Cintrifuse got involved because of Day's connection with Cintrifuse CEO Wendy Lea, which was made when both worked in Silicon Valley. Day, who now works in Cincinnati, reconnected with Lea after she took the Cintrifuse job in October 2014.

In June, Cintrifuse launched Spry Labs to solve problems in the health care industry and commercialize the solutions.

So when Wallace came to her a few months ago and said she needed an innovative solution to the find-a-provider problem, Day thought of Spry Labs.

"It was the right problem, with the right group of people, in our own backyard," Day said.

"We could have done it in lots of ways," Wallace said. "But with our investments in Cincinnati and Jen's existing relationship with the Cintrifuse team, it was just kismet. The planets aligned."

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