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New WellPoint CEO Has Been at Center of Healthcare Industry's Transformation

Joseph Swedish, a 40-year healthcare industry veteran, is charged with driving collaboration with providers to improve outcomes and reduce the costs of care.

With the health insurance and healthcare industries in the throes of historic transformation, Indianapolis-based WellPoint has tapped Joseph Swedish, a longtime healthcare executive who has overseen IT and operations streamlining efforts, as its new chief executive officer, effective March 25, 2013. Swedish, who most recently served as president and CEO for Trinity Health Corp., succeeds interim CEO John Cannon.

Cannon has been in the interim CEO role following the departure of Angela Braly, who resigned from WellPoint in August 2012 after serving five years as CEO. He will remain with WellPoint, and in addition to his role as EVP of legal and public affairs he will help guide the transition, according to a company press release.

Swedish has 40 years' experience in healthcare, holding senior executive positions at multi-institutional health care systems, university- and community-based academic medical centers, integrated delivery systems and regional rural referral hospitals. While at Trinity, according to WellPoint, he accelerated financial and operational performance, growing revenue from less than $6 billion in 2005 to approximately $9 billion in 2012 and doubling operating margins.

Swedish streamlined Trinity's healthcare delivery by improving clinical and business processes and integrating IT platforms hard wired in evidence-based best practices. In 2011, he engineered a successful acquisition of Loyola University Health System - Chicago, and recently signed the definitive agreement for a merger with Catholic Health East, which will make the new organization the fifth-largest U.S.-based health system, serving 21 states with $13 billion in revenues.

[Read: 6 IT Competencies That Health Insurers Must Master Post-Reform]

Prior to joining Trinity Health, Swedish was President and CEO of Centura Health, the largest health care provider in Colorado. He has also served as President of the East Florida and Central Florida Divisions for the Hospital Corporation of America from 1994 through 1998.

Swedish's experience leading healthcare organizations through restructuring and transformation appears to have been a key attraction to WellPoint's board of directors. "Joe embodies the leadership and visionary qualities we value in our chief executive, and the board is confident that under his leadership we will achieve our full potential for future growth and success," said Jackie M. Ward, chair of the WellPoint Board of Directors, in the statement. Ward also noted:

"He brings to WellPoint an extensive track record leading large, complex healthcare organizations through diverse challenges in difficult market and regulatory environments, and his experience will be invaluable to WellPoint as we continue to find innovative ways to collaborate with providers in an effort to improve quality outcomes and reduce the cost of care. Joe's background, in concert with our management's insurance market expertise, creates a team uniquely qualified to manage all facets of our evolving health care system. In 24 years as a CEO, he has had tremendous success growing and advancing health care systems by improving core operations, initiating financial restructurings, and expertly integrating strategic mergers and acquisitions. He is an agile leader at a time when major transformations are requiring health benefit companies to examine new ways to better serve our stakeholders."

"I am honored to be chosen to lead WellPoint," said Swedish, in the press release. "Having spent my entire career in healthcare, I have a strong sense of the market in which the company operates and I am energized by the dynamic changes currently taking place in the industry. I'm committed to ensuring that WellPoint remains a market leader, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues to profitably grow and enhance this organization in a changing market environment."

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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