A veteran IT executive, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's Bob Worthington says his new role as SVP and chief strategy officer (CSO) of the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based health insurer is, in many ways, similar to the role of CIO. "The role involves systems thinking; taking the long view; a comprehensive knowledge of the business, its challenges and opportunities, and emerging markets; and the confidence of corporate leaders in the CSO's or CIO's intellectual honesty, insights and judgment," he explains.
The difference between the CSO role, which the former SVP for administration assumed this April, and that of an enterprise CIO, Worthington suggests, is a matter of strategic execution. As CSO, he is responsible for the enterprise strategic planning process for BCBS of Tennessee ($2.2 billion in assets) and for fostering strategic partnerships, adds Worthington, who names opening up new markets and growth opportunities, offering new health-oriented solutions and unifying a fragmented care delivery system among his top business objectives.
Of course, IT plays a critical role in achieving those goals, Worthington says. Technology will be particularly important, he suggests, in addressing healthcare affordability. "IT will help us automate expensive processes and expedite the flow of information needed by consumer and clinician alike to improve the cost-effectiveness of healthcare," Worthington relates. "It will be a primary factor in engaging people in the right ways to manage their own health and, subsequently, their healthcare costs."
Worthington also will oversee a major campus construction project that will establish a new company headquarters in downtown Chattanooga with an eye on developing better collaboration across the company. "We must continue to change the culture of the company to be more responsive to the increased pace of business and demands of the market," he says. "This requires a different, more integrative working relationship between business and support units. The campus is being created to reflect these new values through an innovative workplace environment."