Delta Dental Plan of Illinois (DDIL, Lisle, IL, approximately $250 million in annual written premium) stood to benefit from technology-smart leadership when Dr. Robert Dennison became CEO in 1999. Around that time, according Ross Gosnell, the company's CIO, "we were where most companies were, technologically, with only static content on our Web site," he says. "Our phone system and interactive voice applications were very basic and the information from our host system was only available through a proprietary architecture through fairly unfriendly IBM tools."
Since the 146-employee carrier competes with such firms as MetLife, CIGNA, Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, a more aggressive technology approach was in order, according to Dennison. "The technology push heretofore has been to improve efficiencies, and dental benefits providers have seen their success driven by their claims expertise," he says. "That part of the business is just becoming a commodity. The secret now is being able to put information in the hands of people."
This insight has led DDIL to pursue a technology road map whose goal is "to be able to use the data we create on a daily basis, which normally resides on disparate databasespull it in and use it to improve our plan designs, pricing and ability to respond to inquiries as quickly as possible," Dennison says. By better analyzing the information generated by the claims process, he adds, "you're able to tell customers what the impact of their utilization is on their bottom-line benefit costs."
In 1998 DDIL began the groundwork for building a robust data warehouse that crosses all departmental boundaries and provides quantitative analysis information for the organization, relates CIO Gosnell. "In the past 12 months we've expanded on that dramatically and we'll be wrapping it up by June," he says. That initiative provides the foundation for sharing information via the Web and even viatelephone.
Last December the insurer finished replacing its old IVR system with Cisco (San Francisco) voice over IP (VoIP) technology that taps into the enterprise database, as well as providing it with call center information for analysis. The application provides much more efficient access to systems data for people who prefer to use the telephoneand has reduced calls handled by the call center by 45 percent.
Other initiatives include a January 2002 rollout of a customized version of FrontRange Solutions' (Colorado Springs) GoldMine sales automation solution, which provides field reps information through a desktop upload onto company-provided Hewlett-Packard (Palo Alto, CA) iPAQ PDAs. DDIL has also built its own electronic forms platform, written on a .NET platform and launched January 1. "It's all integrated with Microsoft, Redmond, WA Outlook, and the back end is Oracle Redwood Shores, CA, so we can evaluate and quantify the nature of those transactions," says Gosnell.
DDIL also provides a Web-based eligibility maintenance application for its own clients, and Dennison, as a member of Delta Dental's nationwide strategy and business development and technology committee, played a role in making a related application available through a portal that serves the 39 Delta plans across the US. "If I work for a Wal-Mart in Illinois, I may know I have Delta, but not know which plan"-which in the case of Wal-Mart would be Delta Dental Plan of Arkansas. With the application, providers need to "enter identifying information for the subscriber through our portal, and it will automatically produce the correct information."
Beyond The Basics
"The secret is being able to put information in the hands of the people," says Robert Dennison, CEO of DDIL.
Background: Arrived at DDIL in 1993 as a dental consultant. Became dental director in 1994 and VP of professional services in '97. Appointed COO in 1999, named CEO later that year.
Recent Wins: - Data warehouse initiative (wrapping up June '03).
- IP telephony implementation.
- GoldMine sales force automation application.
- Built electronic forms application.
Hobbies/Interests: Fishing, golf.
Last book read: "Building, Leading and Managing Strategic Alliances," by Fred A. Kuglin.
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