Highmark smooths way for new company

Firm would house IT, R&D services

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Highmark Inc. is in the early stages of launching a business services company that would house some of the Pittsburgh insurer's health information technology services as well as its various research and development teams.

Highmark Business Solutions Inc. was incorporated last month, according to documents filed with Pennsylvania's Department of State.

The new company, if and when the realignment happens, would essentially complement Highmark's two primary service lines -- its insurance arm, called Highmark Health Services, and its new hospital wing, Allegheny Health Network.

Plans for what would, and what wouldn't, shift into the new company are still being developed, and a Highmark spokesman said it was "premature to discuss" the ultimate look of the new corporation.

But on paper, the re-drawing of Highmark's organizational chart would better allow Highmark's IT team and back-office claims units to act as vendors to third-party clients, particularly other Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers.

Last year, Highmark struck a multimillion, multiyear deal with Independence Blue Cross to handle enrollment, claims and billing for the Philadelphia insurer.

The new company could also house Highmark's product development units. Highmark, like other health insurers, is looking to create new product lines and revenue streams outside of the company's traditional health carrier footprint.

This summer, for example, Highmark and Allegheny Health Network announced a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University to create the Disruptive Health Technology Institute, whose goal is to make health care more efficient and affordable through radical new technologies.

Also, Highmark's "business innovation team" is trying to develop and market direct-to-consumer technologies -- tele-dermatology apps, an "aging-in-place" service and another that aims to help people sleep better. In some cases, those technologies could be spun off into for-profit companies, and could also be housed under Highmark Business Solutions.

Bill Toland: btoland@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2625.

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