Aligning the C-suite by defining the use case

This is the 2nd blog of a 3-part series “The CIO’s Role in Digital Transformation”

An interview with David Chennisi, Senior Vice President of Optum Advisory Services

Dave Chennisi Headshot.jpg

In the second of a three-part series, “The CIO’s role in digital transformation,” Optum Advisory Services Senior Vice President David Chennisi draws on 30 years’ experience in health IT to offer practical advice on how to transform payer infrastructure — and still get your day job done. Here he advises tackling the challenge by beginning with a use case.

Q. Are health plan CIOs ready to compete in a consumer-focused marketplace?

Chennisi: Not yet. But they’re on the cusp of readiness. I worked as a CIO of a mid-sized health plan for eight years before coming to Optum. So I understand the day-to-day struggle CIOs face, the split focus they bring to the business, and the pace of change.

The convergence of technology and health care — especially now, as the model shifts from fee-for-service to fee-for-value — combined with consumers’ demand for smarter interactions with providers and health plans, puts a lot of pressure on the CIO to command infrastructure while also imagining how to free the data.

In a typical health plan organization, the core claims system is at the heart of everything. 50 to 100 surrounding applications require a complex data interchange daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly. At any time, failure of one of those systems may grind the business to a halt. In addition to keeping the lights on with legacy systems, CIOs must also understand how to get information flowing among themselves, their provider networks and their members. In order to prepare, they might explore:

  • What needs to change to provide standardized data across the health ecosystem?
  • What processes and technologies will work to engage members in more holistic, integrated ways?
  • What does the business need to achieve economies of scale, lower costs and data-driven decisions that produce healthier outcomes?

Q. How can CIOs prioritize their time to focus on digital transformation?

Chennisi: The question of how to divide your time between operations and transformation is a difficult one because engineering the technological evolution falls largely to the CIO. And the CIO is swinging back and forth from supporting legacy IT to planning for big data and analytics.

But if you take the digital transformation a step at a time, I think the first and most strategic step for health plan CIOs is to work with leadership to develop the use case — down to the possible sequence of interactions between systems and users in their particular environment and related to a particular goal. I know that sounds mundane, but it’s a necessary step for envisioning the end state as well as identifying the barriers to reaching it, such as gaps in talent, processes and technology. Once the use case is defined, areas for build, buy or subscribe will be more clearly defined, along with guard rails for costs, timing and roles.

Q. What does the CIO need to drive action and begin the transformation?

Chennisi: The next step is the blocking and tackling effort of marshalling the resources, money, people and applications to accomplish what you’ve set out to do over a period of time. Without the first step, it’s much more difficult to proceed.

In some ways, the technology transformation is the easier problem to solve. The more difficult problem is how to help the leadership team shape a vision of the end state as the business model shifts from volume to value — and from a B-to-B sales model to a digital, consumer-focused model.

In part 3 of this series, I’ll share ideas on how to work with stakeholders and partners to modernize technology and operations.

Learn more about the trends and technologies shaping the health care industry

Catch up on all the blogs in “The CIO’s Role in Digital Transformation” series


About the Author:

David Chennisi, Senior Vice President of Optum Advisory Services

David is a key leader in Advisory Services, with more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry. His teams are responsible for successful systems implementation and integration projects spanning core administrative claims adjudication, medical management, business intelligence/data warehouse and customer relationship management applications. Prior to Optum, David served as CIO at Texas Children’s Health Plan.

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