Insurers Need the Same Creativity that Got Apollo 13 Back to Earth—Cigna CIO

The task today is to use available technology and data to drive the frontier of the healthcare experience forward to help keep the well healthy and help the at-risk be more healthy, said Mark Boxer, Cigna CIO, at PegaWORLD in Orlando, Fla.

(Cigna CIO Mark Boxer on stage at PegaWORLD in Orlando, Fla.)

To illustrate the spirit of innovation needed in the insurance and healthcare industries, Mark Boxer, executive VP and CIO, Cigna (Bloomfield), speaking at PegaWORLD in Orlando, Fla., drew on a scene from the movie Apollo 13. The excerpt depicts the improvisation of NASA’s flight control team to assemble disparate elements to create a filtering device that enabled the crew of the troubled mission to breathe. “We need the same creativity that got Apollo 13 back to the earth safely,” he remarked.

Mark Boxer, EVP and Global CIO, Cigna.

Mark Boxer, EVP and Global CIO, Cigna.

Cigna’s efforts to apply such creativity to the healthcare value chain is supported by the capabilities provided by Pegasystems and Cigna’s end-to-end claims capability, according to Boxer. He stressed the need of insurers to meet customers where they are, recognizing the role that technology plays in their lives. He noted that there are approximately 320 million mobile devices in use in the United States, and that over 40 percent of consumers report that social media would affect their choice of a healthcare provider.

(Related: Gamification in Insurance: Customer Engagement and Beyond)

“We need to meet customers where they are, and that means integrating health and wellness into the daily habits of our customers,” he said.

Using a Cigna-produced video, Boxer illustrated a customer experience driven by mobile connectivity and responsive systems: a working mother learns that her daughter has been injured at a soccer game, having received a video and text from the coach; through Cigna’s member site the customer is able to quickly locate urgent care facilities and order them by her criteria. Finally, the customer is able to temporarily share her daughter’s medical records with the relevant clinicians, arranging the approval through the member site.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Healthcare is in some respects a troubled area of society today, Boxer acknowledged, but he illustrated that current problems are not unique with a headline from 1924: Hospital Fees Hit the Middle Class Hard. Referencing Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, he commented that, “It is the best of times and the worst of times in healthcare.” Expanding on the “best,” he foreshadowed an emerging science-driven approach to healthcare leveraging big data—noting that existing medically related records today in paper form would occupy 2 trillion filing cabinets.

The focus in the emerging healthcare vision will not be on just lowering costs, but encouraging better health and lifetime wellness. It signifies a shift, Boxer explained, “from sick care to health and wellness care.”

(Related: Cigna-HealthSpring Incorporates Wearable Technology in Silver&Fit Benefit Program)

Mark Boxer speaks at PegaWORLD 2015.

Mark Boxer speaks at PegaWORLD 2015.

Technology will help in reducing friction that exists in the customer process today and enable both support for improving and maintaining good health, Boxer related. He described the emerging field of instrumentation of the patient, which includes monitoring vital patient information such as body mass index and glucose level.

Boxer shared a case of an individual diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who used an implantable glucose meter with a telemetric connection to his clinician and was able to lose 50 pounds and achieve a normal level of health.

“It’s about integrating habits into daily lives, and creating a virtual ICU,” Boxer commented. “This is one example that represents the promise of technology. Is tech the sole factor? No, but technology empowered that individual to take more control of his health. It was a process of sharing information with the clinician that enabled a more relevant and personalized experience.”

The Game Remains The Same

Boxer concluded with a comparison of table tennis footage from the 1920s to recent times. The objectives of the game had not fundamentally changed, he said, but the pace of play and the equipment had. The task today is to use available technology and data to drive the frontier of the healthcare experience forward to help keep the well healthy and help the at-risk be more healthy, he suggested.

“We have the opportunity, and I would argue the responsibility and obligation to integrate technology that is actionable and relevant,” Boxer said. “And it is to access the power of information to enable people to make better choices and experience healthcare in a more personalized manner.”


Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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