Features

Agustin Ramirez — Bupa Global Latin America

Health insurance IT leader understands cultures and technologies

The places where Agustin Ramirez has worked in IT may not fill an atlas, but they do make an intriguing list of locales.

Ramirez was born in Venezuela and began his career in technology there as an engineer providing field support in the oil and gas industry before he left his country in 2006.

First, he transferred to Kazakhstan, where he spent six years. Next, it was Turkmenistan for over a year, and then on to Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Ramirez was also an international IT consultant before he moved to Florida in March 2015.

Agustin Ramirez | Chief Technology Officer | Bupa Global Latin America

Agustin Ramirez | Chief Technology Officer | Bupa Global Latin America

Ramirez says the globetrotting has provided him with an understanding of countries, cultures and personalities that suit him well in his current role as chief technology officer for health insurer Bupa Global’s Latin American division.

“I need to understand people before creating solutions,” he says. “This is especially true in international companies with a global workforce.”

Global health care coverage

It’s been more than 75 years since Bupa was founded in the U.K. with 38,000 members and more than 50 years since Bupa Global was launched in 1971 to provide health insurance coverage worldwide.

As Ramirez notes, Bupa, which stood for British United Provident Association, is a United Kingdom nonprofit organization serving over 38 million customers with 85,000 employees.

The company has two offices in the U.K., as well as Miami, Copenhagen and Hong King, among other locations. Working from the company’s Miami office, Ramirez oversees IT and network operations for Latin American and Caribbean operations in countries including Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Brazil, Panama, Guatemala and Ecuador. Bupa’s growth in Latin America has been steady and impressive. For instance, its 2020 acquisition of Vitamédica from Citibanamex and BBVA added 87,000 policyholders in Mexico.

Agustin Ramirez | Chief Technology Officer | Bupa Global Latin America

As CTO for Bupa’s Latin American operations, Ramirez says he’s been tasked with managing the commercial relationships with tech vendors and working to automate the claims process while helping shift operations to the cloud.

“I work with innovation manager and partners to identify which tools can be implemented, identify gaps and fill them with solutions or in-house development,” he explains. “We have to centralize and understand what’s in the data and identify what should and shouldn’t be paid.”

Capturing claims data

The automation project began in February, and Ramirez hopes to complete it by early 2024 as part of a larger project that will enable Bupa to use claims and records to draw de-identified personal information data for analytics to drive preventive health care solutions and identify fraud and reduce costs.

Given the array of nations, institutions and cultures Ramirez works with, standardizing and automating health insurance claims is a tall task. The countries feature their own regulatory structure and requirements, and he adds it’s still common for claims to be processed by hand in many places. Medical coding standards also differ between nations.

Ramirez is also helping Bupa Global achieve its goal of operating completely on the cloud by 2025. Because the company is a Microsoft shop, Azure is the primary cloud hosting choice.

Agustin Ramirez | Chief Technology Officer | Bupa Global Latin America

However, he says the cloud migration will also include other hosts, such as Amazon Web Services, because spreading things out can keep operations running in the event of an emergency that affects Azure. In Latin America, the shift will require some unique solutions because of national laws such as the one in Mexico requiring that all personal data is stored and used within the country. Ramirez says that can be addressed by having data centers remain in Mexico, too.

He also works with Bupa Global’s information security and compliance teams to make sure Latin American IT operations meet regulatory requirements. While the company does adhere to the European Union’s General Data Privacy requirements, additional regulations exist in countries such as Panama and Guatemala.

“My role is to understand that we can take to the cloud, the cost and effectiveness, and guaranteeing that the information is safe,” Ramirez says.

On the move

Ramirez earned his degree in electronic engineering from Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira in Venezuela in 2002 and began working in the nation’s oil and gas industry for Eni, an energy company headquartered in Milan.

As political instability grew in Venezuela, Ramirez began his far-flung assignments with the company as a networking and infrastructure senior adviser in Kazakhstan from October 2006 to June 2012. Among his tasks, he led planning, development, monitoring and support for the network infrastructure used by 1,500 people at the Karabatan construction site.

In July 2012, Ramirez became field ICT manager for Eni’s work at the onshore gas field in Turkmenistan, then joined London-based oil and gas producers Afren in January 2014 as field IT manager in Kurdistan inside Iraq. While doing so, he consulted on IT solutions for ISN Solutions Ltd.

Agustin Ramirez | Chief Technology Officer | Bupa Global Latin America

Gravel race Redland

During a slump in the oil industry, he came to Florida in 2015 and helped open Brevet Bikeshop & Service in Miami. Ramirez is still an avid cyclist; he rides 150 miles a week and is the broadcast director for his church’s multimedia group. He also enjoys investing in real estate and rehabilitating homes.

He was recruited as IT infrastructure project manager by Bupa Global in February 2016. Eight months later, he was named IT infrastructure manager. As the company has transformed, so have his roles, but he says his approach is constant.

“I like to empower technology so that people are not afraid of it,” Ramirez says. “To provide technological solutions where you work, you need to know the business and know how to use the new technologies that exist in the market and apply them to make the business more efficient.”

View this feature in the Winter I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: December 15, 2023

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