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May 6, 2019 C-Suite Awards 2019

Cigna's Boxer uses technology to tackle healthcare challenges

Photo | Contributed

Category: Chief Information officer of the Year

Mark Boxer

Executive Vice President and Global Chief Information Officer, Cigna

Size of organization: 74,000+ employees worldwide

Education: Medical University of South Carolina, Ph.D. in health administration; Arizona's School of Health Sciences, Ph.D. in global public health.

Previous job: Group President, Government Healthcare at Xerox and Deputy Global CIO for the Xerox Corp.

As a public health professional and technologist, Mark Boxer firmly believes technology holds the key to solving many of the challenges in health care.

Boxer — executive vice president and chief information officer at Cigna, where he oversees the Bloomfield insurer's worldwide technology strategy, digital capabilities and venture innovation fund — cited a New York Times headline, “Hospital fees hit the middle class hard,” from 1924. That could have been written today, he said.

“Unless we really leverage data and analytics and technology in a smart way, we're going to be writing that same headline a hundred years from now,” said Boxer, whose academic credentials include doctorates in health administration and global public health, a master's in information systems, an MBA and has been recognized by Insurance & Technology magazine as one of its “Elite Eight” technologists.

The healthcare ecosystem is fragmented and cost doesn't equal quality, he said, but technology can help create a better, more personalized experience for consumers, more affordability, and better outcomes and higher quality. Boxer believes removing fragmented challenges in health care means getting technology right and suggests Cigna has a leg up.

Health care is becoming more retail-centric and must be mobile to be relevant, Boxer said, adding Cigna is betting big on agile development, cloud computing, analytics and artificial intelligence, digital and cybersecurity, and deploying capabilities quickly.

Boxer, 59, married to Michelle, with two grown daughters, 23 and 25, returned to Cigna in 2011 after working there from 1996 to 2000 as senior vice president of IT and e-commerce at Cigna Healthcare and CIO at Healthsource, a Cigna acquisition. He then went to WellPoint in leadership roles that included CIO, then Xerox Corp., where he served as group president, government health care and deputy global CIO.

He's proud of his role helping Cigna address healthcare challenges through innovative use of technology and data, including confronting the nation's opioid crisis. Cigna set a goal in 2016 to reduce opioid use among customers by 25 percent by 2019. It hit that goal a year early. A new Cigna goal: Reduce opioid overdoses 25 percent among commercial customers in targeted communities by Dec. 2021.

Cigna has discussed with federal health officials the algorithms it uses to address the opioid crisis and whether there's broader applicability for other health insurers to identify patients, prospectively, to address their pain in ways that prevent opioid risk, and providers whose opioid prescription patterns may exceed normal patterns.

Such preventive intervention is among tools Cigna uses to tackle the opioid crisis, including counseling for patients in crisis to avoid an emergency, and equipping people to administer life-saving naloxone, or Narcan, to overdose victims, which Cigna did with its clinicians.

Boxer tapped that training on a 2018 flight from Ohio to Boston. After a young woman stopped breathing and a doctor onboard determined she was experiencing an opioid overdose, Boxer retrieved Narcan from his briefcase, helped administer it and the woman was revived, he said.

Boxer's also proud of Cigna's work with California-based Brighter Inc., which Cigna acquired in 2017. Brighter had created “Brighter Score” for dental care, allowing consumers to rate their provider experience and access cost and quality information. That's now migrating to primary care physicians, he said.

Boxer also notes Cigna's launch of WinstonQED in the United Kingdom, a mobile virtual-care application that includes telemedicine, e-prescribing, and health and wellness support. Well-received, it's now in 30 countries outside the U.S., he said.

Mun Y. Choi, president of the University of Missouri System and former dean of engineering, then provost at UConn, called Boxer innovative, creative and genuine.

Choi remembers working with Boxer on a partnership to leverage the engineering and business schools' collaboration, and engage students and faculty on a university-based laboratory, partnering with Cigna to train students on IT needs and developing smart applications for improved health.

Boxer recognizes the need to train students who will thrive in the new economy and that such training should include experiential learning, Choi said.

Boxer also helped convene Hartford's business community to attract IT and outsourcing provider Infosys. Since it announced its plans to open a tech hub in Hartford, at least four other tech companies have approached the city about planting a flag locally, “creating the impetus for Hartford to become … an innovation center for healthcare technology using Infosys as sort of the anchor point,” he said.

Personal side:

City of residence: Glastonbury

Favorite way to relax: Spending time with my family, taking the dogs for a walk or hike

Hobbies: Reading, fishing, golf, cooking, travel

Last vacation: San Francisco (to see my daughter).

Favorite movie: “Good Will Hunting”

The car you drive: Audi Q7

Currently reading: “The Demon Under the Microscope,” by Thomas Hager

Personal goal: Finishing a marathon

Favorite cause: I'm heavily involved in the disability community. I serve as executive sponsor for Cigna's People With Different Abilities Colleague Resource Group. I have worked with the American Association with People with Disabilities (AAPD) for decades. I sponsor various disability hiring programs and work with other organizations personally, including Best Buddies.

Second choice career: College professor

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