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A health plan’s member satisfaction requires more than quality clinical care; it’s a team effort that includes support from the plan’s behind-the-scenes employees. Buffalo, NY-based Independent Health offers commercial, Medicare, Medicaid and self-funded health coverage for nearly 380,000 members in Western New York. To better support the end users who help these members and enable predictive and proactive operations, Independent Health sought to integrate its IT service desk with its core infrastructure.

By partnering with NTT DATA, the organization transformed its IT service desk and modernized its infrastructure to build an end-to-end model that speeds response time, allows for predictive and proactive operations, and improves employee support and satisfaction.

Business Needs

As one of the highest-rated health plans in the United States for clinical quality and member satisfaction, Independent Health recognizes that supporting its 1,200 employees with a solid end-user experience is critical. Operating an efficient and agile IT infrastructure is a business necessity. Any IT service desk should be a proactive asset enabled with data, knowledge and tools to tackle new initiatives.

“We wanted to build an end-to-end services model that would modernize our IT service desk and integrate it with improvements we were making to our field services, desktop engineering, mobility and asset management services,” says Joshua Zalen, Independent Health’s vice president of IT Service Operations. “That’s why we turned to NTT DATA.”


85% employee satisfaction rate with IT
3.9 out of 4 end-user satisfaction score
  • Delivers 24x7 IT support
  • Streamlines operations through an expanded knowledge base
  • Enables smooth pivot to work-from-home program


Independent Health has a long history of being recognized nationally for our award-winning customer service. To maintain this distinction, we wanted to build an end-to-end services model that would continue to modernize our IT service desk and integrate it with improvements we were making to our field service, desktop engineering, mobility and asset management services. That’s why we turned to NTT DATA.

Joshua Zalen, VP of IT Service Operations, Independent Health


Providing excellent member service

Independent Health’s associates rely on the organization’s IT service desk for the support they need to provide excellent member service. The company’s IT team has the tools and technologies in place to elevate and continuously provide a superb end-user experience. “We’re in the service delivery business,” Zalen says.

However, prior to partnering with NTT DATA, Zalen explains, “We ran a standalone IT service desk that kept us from unifying our infrastructure. And that led to higher costs and inefficiencies. We saw an opportunity with NTT DATA to greatly improve our end user experience and run predictive and proactive operations.”

Charting a path of continuous transformation

Working with NTT DATA’s Hybrid Infrastructure Services, Zalen and his team embarked on a path of continuous transformation of Independent Health’s IT services infrastructure. The plan would build out an end-to-end model that delivers increasing value over time. It’s the IT embodiment of Independent Health’s RedShirt® initiative, which provides incentives to members for actions that can help manage their health and wellness.

The transformation journey focused on improving three key areas: access, onboarding and outcomes. The first step was improving access for end users — which was enhanced by offering an omnichannel 24x7 live help desk.

Continuing its focus on the employee experience, Independent Health improved onboarding by automating asset deployment, giving new hires access to the right systems and equipment right away.

The team established IT satisfaction metrics and experience-based service level agreements (XLAs) — driven by advanced IT operational, management and knowledge capabilities — to support Independent Health’s business outcomes. Focusing on employee satisfaction and continuous improvement resulted in benchmark achievements in call resolution and a 3.9 out of 4 customer satisfaction rating for Independent Health’s IT services.

“That process has paid off,” Zalen says. “Our IT service desk is a great example. Now, we are much more responsive to incidents as they occur.” Today, with a transformed IT service desk providing 24X7 access, over 85% of incidents are resolved on the user’s first call.

Accelerating enterprise outcomes

"The backbone of our services delivery to Independent Health is Nucleus,” says Vijay Jagannathan, NTT DATA’s senior vice president of Healthcare & Life Sciences. Nucleus is NTT DATA’s intelligent automation platform. Nucleus helps accelerate enterprise outcomes. The platform automates workflows, centralizes asset administration and helps speed task and incident resolution.

With Nucleus, Independent Health benefits from automated handling and monitoring, proactive preventative maintenance and infrastructure self-healing. These capabilities help reduce services disruption, cut time to resolution and increase customer satisfaction.

For example, time to process audit and compliance related requests dropped by 30% and live-agent throughput increased by 20%. Nucleus automation has also contributed to a 15% reduction in manual ticket submissions, minimizing error, risk and lag in critical actions.

Putting enterprise knowledge to work

NTT DATA and Independent Health also opted to add an attach rate for knowledge to every incident resolution. Doing so puts enterprise knowledge to work in services delivery and further boosts positive outcomes. Since that decision, the number of articles accessible to staff has skyrocketed from under 10 to more than 1,000.

Moving forward, adding generative AI features to Nucleus will further unlock enterprise knowledge, creating even better outcomes for Independent Health.

“As we’ve added efficiency and functionality to the IT service desk, we’ve built up a substantially improved knowledge base of standard operating procedures,” Zalen says. “Having that documentation will pay dividends for reference and training purposes.”

As part of Independent Health’s IT strategy, NTT DATA helped move the organization from traditional laptops and desktops to portable thin clients. This approach enables Independent Health to keep user data within its centralized and secure Citrix infrastructure. It helps to maintain data security while providing flexible access to IT resources from more locations.

“With all the improvements we’ve made to the IT service desk and infrastructure,” Zalen says, “we’ve been able to free our own IT staff to support new initiatives.”

Pivoting on disruption: work from home

During COVID-19, Zalen and his team were able to pivot to a work-from-home program because of Independent Health’s partnership with NTT DATA. “The entire associate population was ready not just because we had the collaboration tools, but because we had the processes in place with NTT DATA,” he says.

All of Independent Health’s employees transitioned to working remotely using NTT DATA’s Digital Workplace Services. The company overcame this workplace disruption with no impact to member satisfaction. Today, the ability to offer flexible workplace options continues to work to Independent Health’s advantage. According to Zalen, “We actually feel it's a differentiator for us in the talent marketplace.”

The strategic value of partnership

Zalen emphasizes that teaming with NTT DATA offers both industry expertise and the strategic value of the partnership. “We have frequent meetings at a senior level to engage in conversation,” he says, “not just about operations, like how well are we doing operationally, but to talk about strategic vision, to talk about IT road mapping.”

“We’re now well positioned to provide excellent service to our end users,” Zalen says, “as well as advance Independent Health’s strategic programs.”

About Independent Health

Founded in 1980, Independent Health offers commercial, Medicare and Medicaid health plans for nearly 380,000 members in Western New York.
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United States

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