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CIGNA CIO: Go Global, Go Deep, Go Individual

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

Mark Boxer
Mark Boxer
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 comments. "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 confides. "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 explains. "It's about identifying those at risk and helping them to get better or live as well as they can with chronic illness."

Boxer emphasizes 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 relates. "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 opines that 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 observes. "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 says. "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.

"We're identifying what makes most sense rather than just putting everything on the mobile channel," he reports. "We look carefully at different tools and solutions to make sure that they're relevant. The question is how does it simplify and improve the customer experience, helping the customer to navigate a complex system more easily."

In the 60 days since he took on the CIO role, Boxer has spent a great deal of his time on understanding CIGNA's business strategy and making sure that technology strategy is well aligned.

"We've made significant investments, including in our new Health eView clinical platform that puts the right information at the right time into the hands of clinicians and care managers," Boxer says. "We have a long focus on leveraging our information assets, we continue to invest in the customer online experience, and we continue to invest in our administrative platforms to make sure they are as efficient as they can possibly be."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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