Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Need for Chief Innovation Officers in DM, not.

The disease management blog spent the weekend catching up on a number of projects by day and getting reacquainted with a wonderful Chardonnay (Rombauer 2006 – while it can be criticized for an excess of oak, it’s a luscious buttery lass with a sublime finish) by night. So it was naturally by night that topic of healthcare title inflation recurred (see the Top Ten post below on Integrated Delivery Systems) and the crosshairs landed on “Chief Innovation Officer.”

And just what is it that these guys do? After a quick dose of some Google, I learned this species in the corporate healthcare fauna is mostly responsible for deciding whether to fund new internal or external ideas, sort of like an in-house venture capitalist, only minus a lot of the commas and zeros. Not only do many Fortune 500 companies have a CIO, but so does Humana, CDC and at least one Blues Plan. Apparently, one of the things many like to invest in is disease management.

Despite that moniker, two things emerged in my on-line tour of the topic. “Core” disease management companies don’t seem to have bothered with the position, despite the innovative froth in new behavioral approaches, increasingly accurate predictive modeling, novel contracting arrangements, more sophisticated cultural competency and the growth in international applications. Granted, it is a young industry not yet prone to excess administrative bloat, but I suspect the innovation is still too “distributed” to be corralled in some corner office. Secondly, there are a lot of “Chief” titles out there, including operations, technology, privacy, medical (what one friend described to me as a position akin to a “Golden Cage,” but that’s for another post), information, risk, quality, marketing and strategy just to name a few. Everyone knows it’s the chief executive officer that’s really in charge, but given the array of overlapping sub-corporate chiefdoms out there, the disease management blog asks if the title of chief chief officer (CCO) is more accurate.

As for me, I’m tempted to use what one former CEO acquaintance used to get to the Captain’s Table on a cruise. Even though she was a CEO for a large insurer, she confidently described herself as an “MEP.” She held out until crème brûlée before noting the title stood for “most exalted person.”

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