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7/21/2011
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CIGNA CIO: Technology Influences Customer Experience

Mark Boxer, who took on the CIO role at CIGNA in April 2011, talks about technology's role in supporting the health insurer's information-intensive global strategy.

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, some future observer might comment about the American health insurance industry today, acknowledges Mark Boxer, who took on the role of CIO at Bloomfield, Conn.-based CIGNA. However, the former WellPoint, ACS, and Xerox executive prefers to take an optimistic view about CIGNA's prospects, and about the healthcare industry as a whole.

"We know more about the human genome than ever; the science is exploding and that has very positive implications for health and wellness management," Boxer said. "At the same time, there are fundamental structural challenges [in the health care system] that need to be addressed, but CIGNA is very well-positioned in that regard."

Boxer's assumption of CIGNA's CIO job in April 2011 was a kind of homecoming, as he led the company's e-commerce practice in the 1990s and played a major IT leadership role during CIGNA's Healthsource acquisition and integration. Boxer received Insurance & Technology's Elite 8 Award in 2007 for his work at WellPoint, and most recently he was president, government health care, for ACS/Xerox and global deputy CIO for Xerox Corporation. As the first ACS executive to join Xerox's senior management team, Boxer felt honored, but he found the opportunity to rejoin CIGNA irresistible.

"When the opportunity presented itself to return, I didn't hesitate for one minute," Boxer said. "One thing that drew me back was CIGNA's strategy and vision oriented around health, wellness, and security for the individual customer."

Driven by what Boxer terms the powerful and visionary leadership of CEO David Cordani, CIGNA's mantra is "Go global, go deep, go individual."

"It's about customer intimacy, understanding at a deep level not only likes and preferences but also health," Boxer said. "It's about identifying those at risk and helping them to get better or live as well as they can with chronic illness."

Boxer emphasized the "global" dimension as both a recognition of the importance of being relevant to all markets one plays in, and also as an expression of CIGNA's conviction that its opportunities are well beyond the borders of the United States.

"We're taking things from other markets and bringing them here, but also taking things from here and introducing them to other markets we operate in," Boxer said. "For example, where socialized systems prevail, they haven't had as much success improving health and wellness, so they're looking for tools we've built in commercial markets here. Likewise, we're deriving new insights from retail markets, for example in Asia, about targeting customers and making the right products available at the right time."

Boxer said it's an exciting time to be a technologist at a payer today because of healthcare reform, the shift to individual markets, the emergence of online exchanges, and the ever-evolving potential of technology itself.

"Achieving excellence today requires having the right information, tools, services, and solutions, predicated on a very robust information architecture," Boxer said. "You need to be able to know the population, analyze and stratify it, and provide appropriate solutions."

Inspiration for those solutions needs to come from wherever it may be found, according to Boxer, who says that CIGNA benchmarks itself not against its health insurance peers but rather against expectations that customers bring from other retail experiences.

"We're very serious about being customer-centric, and that means speaking in language that is easy-to-understand and relevant, and creating an optimal online customer experience that mirrors other online retail experience," Boxer said. "Underpinning that is the right technology."

CIGNA has an R&D lab dedicated to innovation and is using focus groups to shape the service experience, including in the area of mobile access, where Boxer says the insurer has taken a very deliberate approach.

Read the rest of this article on Insurance & Technology.

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