Group To Help Health-Plan Tech Executives Brainstorm

Dolphin Group will provide IT managers involved with health plans a forum for collaboration.
Health-plan information technology executives now have a new think-tank organization they can join to help them ponder their common business and technology challenges.

The Dolphin Group is a new collaborative launched last month to facilitate brainstorming among CIOs and other IT executives of health plans, or companies that provide or pay for its members' health care.

While the Dolphin Group was founded by privately held health-care software vendor Abovehealth Inc., members of the think-tank don't need to be Abovehealth customers. The company plans to have Dolphin Group members spearhead events and discussions once the organization gets ramped up, a Dolphin Group spokeswoman says.

So far, there are about a dozen members from different parts of the country who have joined the group, which will periodically meet in person, but will predominately hold discussions via virtual meetings, work-groups, and Web conferences, the spokeswoman says.

While many constituencies in the health-care sector -- including health-care providers -- are tackling business technology challenges as they transition from manual processes and paper-based patient charts to digital processes and electronic health-record systems, health plans are facing some of those issues from a different perspective and also have some unique problems, she says.

"There are a number of back-end issues, such as differences in claims processing, compliance to government regulations, and other challenges that affect the technology initiatives and strategies of health-plans," she says. "We've found that there's a need for a group like this to help members learn from their experiences and to help figure out their problems."

In a statement, the Dolphin Group says its "goal is to create an environment in which health-care IT executives can provide greater value and leadership to their organizations through effective management and technology implementation."

Bob Farrar, director of information resources at Hometown Health, a health plan based in Reno, Nev., says he joined Dolphin Group because he believes it will be helpful to him as his company deals with technology issues such as evolving standards for interoperable digital health records and electronic claims processing. "This will be a unique forum to help us discuss these challenges," he says. Farrar says Hometown Health isn't an Abovehealth customer.

Membership in the Dolphin Group is free. The quirky name was chosen because "dolphins are famous for their ability to communicate -- they swim together in pods, listening and conveying messages using sound waves," says the spokeswoman. "The Dolphin Group uses this imagery as a parallel to its own mission to work together and communicate ideas -- to address real and emerging IT challenges using the latest technology available."

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