A look at how Cigna's newly launched Evernorth is approaching innovation

The team at Cigna's newly launched subsidiary Evernorth is hard at work developing new solutions, and CEO David Cordani said they're taking a transparent approach.

Evernorth, which encompasses Cigna's health services businesses including pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, is building these new tools within its innovation hub, Cordani said, by putting clients and patients "front and center."

Cordani said Evernorth doesn't want to just develop new tools behind closed doors and then prescribe solutions without that feedback.

"That relentless, continuous improvement and innovation—that starts with our clients and patients front and center," Cordani said.

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Cordani spoke Wednesday morning at the HLTH 2020 virtual conference, which continues through the rest of the week.

Cigna launched new tools, such as a return to work platform, alongside Evernorth's branding last month. At the time, the insurer said Evernorth would continue to develop new solutions using a data-driven approach.

In his keynote presentation, Cordani also discussed the role of payers in combating COVID-19, particularly with a vaccine on the horizon. He said that in addition to working to ramp up Express Scripts' capabilities to distribute a vaccine when one is made available, health insurers should be in the business of education.

That starts with mitigating the impacts this fall as much as possible by encouraging members to get flu vaccines. 

"First, let’s take care of the basics," Cordani said.

Then, in partnership with public health groups and government organizations, health plans can play a key part in making sure patients are confident in a vaccination for COVID-19. A Gallup poll released this week finds the number of Americans willing to get a vaccination for the novel coronavirus that has Food and Drug Administration backing has fallen to 50%.

The industry needs to take a "phased approach" to increase confidence, he said, acknowledging that the entire U.S. population won't be vaccinated in a day.

"It’s not as though the country is going to go from zero to 335 million overnight," Cordani said.