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CUSTOMER STORY

Delivering on the vision for better patient care

30%

Faster time to market for new data products

50%

Reduction in maintenance workload

CLOUD: Azure

“What we can do now is actually deliver value — that’s one of the biggest achievements that we have made from investing in the Databricks Platform.”

— Rohan Horstman, Data Solutions Architect, VGZ

Efficient data management within a data platform empowers insurance companies to mitigate risks while personalizing customer service. Take Coöperatie VGZ, a Dutch health insurance provider that insures 3.8 million people across their nine brands. Due to the rise of data volume and technological innovations like AI, it became clear that the insurance company had to adapt to the shifting technological landscape. Needing to transition from their cloud data warehouse to modernize their data infrastructure, VGZ migrated to the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform to increase their scalability, accessibility and agility. Since moving to Databricks, VGZ has seen a 30% improvement in time to market for data products and a 50% reduction in resources spent on platform maintenance.

Transitioning to the cloud and the initial challenges

With a mission to future-proof healthcare, VGZ, a prominent Dutch insurer, embarked on a pivotal transition in 2020 to move their data operations from on-premises to the Azure cloud. VGZ wanted to leverage the benefits offered by the cloud in their plan to be a more data-driven company, without losing sight of the sensitivity of their data. VGZ uses their data to optimize the support they provide to their 3.8 million health insurance customers. However, VGZ encountered significant challenges with their cloud data warehouse, which hindered their progress and maneuverability, making their data leaders realize they also needed a unified approach to data and analytics to reach their lofty goals.

At VGZ, data teams’ workflows posed a critical challenge to their new data-driven initiatives. With all four data teams operating within the same set of resources, there was a notable bottleneck in productivity, as this setup led to teams blocking one another while using their respective tools. As a result, inefficiencies and delays in project timelines occurred more often than not. Because of this issue and a lack of modern methodologies that could streamline their development processes and accelerate product deployment, VGZ’s data teams experienced a higher time to market for data products. Moreover, the insurance provider faced difficulties in managing their data warehousing costs effectively. The inability to control operational costs made it challenging to make strategic decisions regarding resource allocation and investment in future data projects.

Furthermore, VGZ grappled with a high data governance workload within the data platform, a direct consequence of transitioning to a more complex and scalable cloud environment. The existing governance frameworks proved inadequate for the dynamic nature of cloud services, leading to administrative and operational burdens when trying to ensure customer data was secure and proper access controls were in place. Additionally, the data platform — in its current state — was not perceived as fit for the future, raising concerns about its ability to adapt to evolving business needs and technological advancements like AI and machine learning. As Rohan Horstman, a Data Solutions Architect at Coöperatie VGZ, explained, “Compounding these issues was our struggle to onboard other critical workloads, such as data science and advanced data analytics, cost-effectively and efficiently, which hindered growth in vital areas and also reflected a broader challenge we had in optimizing cloud resources for more diverse and sophisticated use cases.”

Streamlining innovation, governance and onboarding with Databricks

VGZ embarked on a strategic overhaul of their data infrastructure, pivoting from their cloud data warehouse to the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform. This bold move was grounded in wanting a unified approach that blends product thinking with organizational and operational strategies. Simply put, it focuses on implementing a platform that maximizes value and effectiveness within a business. With a unified platform like Databricks, VGZ can now enable data-related roles, such as data scientists, miners and analysts, with the required access controls to effectively leverage the company’s data to improve patient care and foster a more collaborative environment among their respective teams while respecting the sensitivity of the data. Alongside this change, VGZ also planned to move toward architectural simplicity. This approach would streamline operations, simplify onboarding for new colleagues and enhance data governance — leading to uniform workflows across the data engineering teams.

At the heart of VGZ’s data platform transformation was the integration of various Databricks products — including Delta Lake, Databricks SQL, and Unity Catalog — into their data architecture. Delta Lake enhanced data integrity and established version control, vital for maintaining high-quality data standards. At the same time, Databricks SQL accelerated data analysis and business intelligence to enable rapid, insightful decision-making without the historical bottlenecks VGZ once encountered. Between data uniformity and rapid analysis, VGZ could better assist members calling with a specific inquiry, for example, by matching them to the appropriate customer service representative or department. Finally, VGZ’s investment in Unity Catalog would solve their immense data governance pain point, streamlining data discovery, cataloging and access control management, which is crucial for handling sensitive healthcare-related information. As Oscar Zonneveld, Technology Officer for Data Products at VGZ, explains, “Databricks enables us to accelerate our journey to becoming a data-driven company, and with Unity Catalog as our governance layer, we are in control of our data and ready for the future.” Together, these tools collectively bolstered VGZ’s engineering framework, fostering standardization, improving reusability and implementing consistent methodologies across teams.

This approach, complemented by a DevOps culture of end-to-end responsibility, not only ensured higher code quality and reduced handovers but also enhanced traceability and error management to align with the stringent compliance demands of handling sensitive patient information. For Horstman, the data teams could now fully embrace the DevOps philosophy of: “You build it, you run it, you own it.” Horstman went into further detail, saying, “Databricks is a platform that we’ve come to rely on. There aren’t any surprises, like the ones we’ve encountered with past vendors. Since the platform is so trustworthy, we actually consider Databricks more of a partner than a vendor.” Ultimately, VGZ’s comprehensive approach to their data platform challenges has not only streamlined their operations but also set a new standard for data management and utilization within the industry, paving the way for the company’s sustainable growth and innovation.

Future-proofing data infrastructure for better healthcare services

VGZ’s strategic investment in the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform marks a pivotal shift in their data management and product development strategies. This transformative move has not only streamlined their data processes but also infused a new level of efficiency and innovation into the insurance provider’s operations. By adopting an advanced unified data platform, VGZ has achieved a significant milestone: a 30% faster time to market for new data products that deliver insights and new capabilities to the business. This expedited time to market enables VGZ to rapidly adapt to market trends, customer needs and regulatory changes, simply by harnessing the power of real-time data analytics. “Databricks has enabled us to shift from cost-driven services to value-driven services, with fewer discussions about platforms and more focus on business outcomes,” says Rutger Keur, Director of Core Solutions at VGZ.

The implementation of Databricks has also led to a substantial 50% reduction in maintenance workloads. This efficiency gain is a result of consolidated processes and reduced handovers, which have simplified and optimized VGZ’s governance workflows. The improved model has provided VGZ with deeper insights into the cost-effectiveness and value delivery of various products and initiatives. Yet, the Databricks Platform’s contribution extends beyond mere efficiency; it ensures that VGZ remains a step ahead in understanding and leveraging data for strategic purposes that move the needle on their business, and more importantly, help members stay healthy. Horstman believes, “Our new data platform was implemented seamlessly within three quarters — one for initial setup and golden source extraction, followed by a quarter dedicated to stabilization. This efficient rollout has brought us results that have exceeded our expectations and left us more than satisfied.”

Looking toward the future, VGZ is well equipped to embrace new data-driven workflows — thanks to the adaptable nature of the Databricks Platform. With its ability to support data teams across the board, the Databricks Platform expands VGZ’s capacity to become more innovative as the company works to personalize the member experience through targeted segmentation and optimize health insurance contracts for better care. The data teams are also interested in exploring the impact artificial intelligence and machine learning could have on the customer experience as well. Not only did the Databricks Data Intelligence Platform fortify VGZ’s data infrastructure with reliability and stability, but it has also positioned them as a forward-thinking player in the realm of data analytics — one that is ready to confidently tackle any future challenges or opportunities.