John Pyhtila

As Head of Analytics for Cigna, John Pyhtila oversees a set of Advanced Analytic Centers of Excellence focused on Risk, Predictive Modelling, Big Data, Program Evaluation, Clinical Effectiveness and Provider/Network Analytics. John is responsible for delivering Insights to business leaders, enabling them to make data-driven decisions and take the right actions. The Insights team is a core enabler of Cigna's “Go Deep, Go Global, Go Individual” business strategy, and its work is instrumental to Cigna's mission of improving the health, well-being and sense of security of the people we serve. To enable this close partnership, John also leads a team of analytic consultants who partner with business leaders to develop a broad analytic, reporting and data roadmap that enables them to achieve their strategic objectives.

Prior to joining Cigna in 2014, John was the President of the Enterprise Analytics Division at Verisk Health. In that role John was responsible for the Verisk population health and predictive modelling solutions. John oversaw all aspects of the business, including client delivery, product development and R&D. The Enterprise Analytics Division provided deep analytic insights to payer, provider and employer clients to support  decision making and action planning. Before joining Verisk Health, John was an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co. and previously worked as a hardware engineer at Motorola and Hewlett-Packard.

John earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University where he studied the development of novel fiber optic medical instruments to detect pre-cancerous growth. While at Duke, John was part of a team that successfully launched a start-up to commercialize the technology from his thesis. John also holds an M.S. and B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and Michigan State University respectively.


5 Questions with John Pyhtila

1.     What first interested you in analytics?

I have always been interested in problem solving, and analytics is a fundamental tool needed to solve problems. When I was a kid I loved doing logic problems and actually really enjoyed the math portion of the aptitude tests (the verbal parts were a different story…) After graduating with my engineering degrees, my focus has always been on problem solving through analytics. Whether it was designing cell phones at Motorola, developing novel cancer diagnostics at Duke, solving a variety of challenging problems with multiple clients at McKinsey, or most recently, tackling the challenging healthcare questions facing our clients and customers at Cigna, problem solving has been my true passion. In today’s complex world, we need advanced analytics to solve our most challenging problems, that is why I am so excited about the future of our industry and the role analytics will play.

2.     What have you learned in your current job about leading an analytics organization that you wish you knew on day one?

Great question. I consider myself a life-long student and am always striving to learn new things. Since joining Cigna in 2014 I have learned a lot. Probably the most important thing I wish I had known is the high degree of interconnectedness of the business. In my role as an enabler of business strategy, it is essential to work with different business partners and identify new opportunities to link analytics and insights between those business partners. The complexity this brings to the problem solving is what makes my job both challenging and exciting.  I believe analytic leaders in large organizations across industries face this similar challenge, and we need to continue to find ways to create connections both in how we partner with the business and how we structure our analytics.

3.     How well would you say companies in the healthcare industry have done in building their own “analytics communities?”

I can’t speak for other healthcare companies, but at Cigna, building a strong analytic community is a significant focus and fundamental to our strategy of using data-driven “insights” to improve the health and wellbeing of our customers. Cigna's analytics community extends to every part of the organization: from IT enablement to business strategy and front line application. A company’s culture needs to be built around analytics, and the organization should understand how analytics can help it achieve its strategic objectives. At Cigna, our corporate strategy is enabled by analytics, and we are partnering with our business leaders across the company to continue to drive strategy based on insights delivered through our data and analytics.

4.     In your session, you will be exploring the “Journey of Change” at Cigna. Can you provide a short insight/sneak peEk as to what that will entail?

Sure. In my session we will focus on our strategy to enable our business through insights. The strategy includes multiple components from foundational enablers to measuring success.  Specifically, in my session we will touch on:

  • how we are continuing to strengthen the base of our team through an organizational and talent strategy,
  • our investment in analytic enablers, including infrastructure and tools,
  • our approach to engaging the business to ensure we are answering the right questions, and
  • how we operationalize analytics to enable action.

Fundamental to all of this is close collaboration with a wide, cross-functional team to ensure we are aligned and headed in the right direction. 

5.     What, in your opinion, are the key “enablers of success” in analytics?

Success in analytics has to be measured by business impact. To achieve business impact and support Cigna's ability to meet and exceed our strategic objectives, we need to execute on our strategy as summarized in the previous question. Underlying that is a need for our team and our partners to exhibit a set of core behaviors, which, when we all demonstrate, enables our success. Those behaviors are: 1) Personal accountability, 2) Orientation to outcomes, 3) Speed in execution, and 4) Collaboration. These are not just words on a page, but must be internalized and personalized by every member of our team, and then when exhibited, allow us to successfully drive the business forward.