There are different approaches that can be taken as an interim leader, but for the most part, the objective remains the same: maximize the impact while minimizing the damage. For Beth Lindsay-Wood, however, the tactic she took at Moffitt Cancer Center was the same has adopted with every role, interim or not. To her, it’s an opportunity to provide an outsider’s perspective on how to do things more effectively, while becoming “part of the organization.”
Recently, Lindsay-Wood spoke with healthsystemCIO about her journey so far at Moffitt, and how the team is leveraging analytics to provide personalized cancer care. She also provided her thoughts on what it means to be a true digital organization, how the organization has pivoted during the pandemic, and what excites her most about the direction of the industry.
LISTEN HERE USING THE PLAYER BELOW OR SUBSCRIBE THROUGH YOUR FAVORITE PODCASTING SERVICE.
- Being a “real digital organization” means more than just adding technologies to the mix; it’s about “acting and behaving digitally.”
- Because cancer care is so specialized depending the type of cancer and treatment, even digital health must be customized to ensure the best possible experience for patients and families.
- Lindsay-Wood was originally brought on as interim CIO, but took on the full-time role so she could “see through the important work that had to happen for IT to continue to mature and be prepared for Impact 2028.”
- One of the biggest challenges of cancer care? There isn’t a playbook for a standard EMR implementation, and there’s no “generic order entry clinical documentation product.”
- Although healthcare IT has had its laggards, “it’s an exciting time to be in the industry and see us really start to gain traction.”
Q&A with Beth Lindsay-Wood, Part 2 [Click here to view Part 1]
Gamble: Let’s talk about the increase in virtual visits. How has it affected things?
Lindsay-Wood: We’re leveraging this pandemic to look at things very differently. We have such traction now with virtual visits. Obviously not everything can be virtual. But there are times where we can provide chemotherapy at home through a pill rather than an infusion, and so we’re looking at all the different creative ways that we can improve the patient experience. We’re looking at all of it.
Everything is on the table; everyone is open to looking at different ways of providing care. And that means we’re not just adding technology to the mix; we’re looking at a completely different way of providing care. To me, that’s when you become a real digital organization — where you’re not just doing digital things, but you’re acting and behaving digitally. It’s a culture thing. We’re on the journey, but that’s an important difference in what we’re trying to accomplish.
Gamble: In terms of the clinicians, how can you gauge their readiness when it comes to using more advanced tools or using them in more advanced ways from a digital standpoint?
Lindsay-Wood: Each type of cancer has its own specialists. And so you have to look at the care model differently. It depends on the type of cancer, the treatment, and other factors. I’m not seeing that they’re resistant, which can be the case; what I’m seeing is how can we creatively address the uniqueness of each group with digital solutions. It’s a much easier journey than others in terms of what’s available today and what can be done.
Again, it’s almost at the patient level because it depends on what treatments you need and how often you need to be checking certain things. But you can imagine that we could really accelerate monitoring patients at home through IoT and a number of other things we can use and are beginning to evaluate. In the past, if you had cancer, you came in and got your labs done, got your images done, and saw your doctor. Now, we’re looking at when you need to come in and how we can organize your care differently to minimize exposure to Covid. Like I said, it’s taking each case and figuring out how we can get really creative about doing things differently.
I have to say, I think it’s amazing how the physicians all adopted this technology so readily. Yes, it is a pandemic — I get that, but it really did open the door.
Gamble: Very interesting. Now, in terms of your own career, you’ve been with the organization for more than a year, but you started in the interim role?
Lindsay-Wood: Yes. I was a partner in a consulting firm and was just finishing up some executive consulting work on the West Coast at a similar organization to Moffitt. I was contacted to consider the interim role, which is something I’ve done a number times. Plus, I happen to live in Tampa and I know Moffitt well, so it was good timing. I’ve done a lot of traveling as a consultant, so to have something right in my own backyard was great.
I had a conversation with the CAO, the CFO, and the chief human resource officer about the role and about the need for an interim. The intent was that I was coming in for a brief period of time to hold things together — which is what you do as an interim — and help bring in a new CIO and make the transition. That was the intent.
During my time there, we did start the CIO search, but a new chief digital innovation officer was hired, so we decided to wait and let him get on board, then pick his own CIO. When the search restarted, I was approached about staying on; there was a lot of conversation about that. In the meantime, I had requested some changes in the IT structure, some process things with things we wanted to do, and some funding for resources.
And so, at the end of the day, when it came down to selecting a CIO, I was very interested in seeing through some of the important work that needed to happen for IT to continue to mature and be prepared for Impact 2028. I love this place. I love the culture. I love the mission. And so it was a decision we all made together, and I’m delighted. I didn’t officially start until May of 2020, so I still tell everyone I’m new, but I’ve been here for a while.
That’s my story. It’s very different shifting from being the interim to the permanent, which was something I hadn’t done before. That’s been fun. Everyone here was so welcoming, and I’m so excited to be working with this group.
Gamble: When you were in that interim role, it seems like you were pretty invested. Maybe there was a part of you that wanted it all along.
Lindsay-Wood: That’s a habit of mine. I haven’t been in consulting for a long period of time; I’ve always been an employee and been in senior executive roles in IT over the years. That’s my mindset. When I moved into consulting, I found that doing executive engagements is one thing, but doing interim roles is very different. You become part of the organization as an interim, depending on how long you’re there. The first interim role I did lasted for about a year and a half. Again, it wasn’t as though it was meant to be that long, but what happens — at least for me — is when I’m there, I’m in 100 percent. I want to do everything I can to help that organization. Every time I do this, it typically leads to me saying, ‘there are things we can do in the interim.’ But there’s a balance. Someone’s going to come in at some point and take this on, and you want to leave it in good shape and help, but also give them the opportunity to make changes. In this case, I was given free rein to say what I would do differently. I gave them my recommendations, and they wanted to go forward with them here.
I do tend to get invested everywhere I go, because I have that mindset of being employed. It’s always tough to leave a role, but I always look forward to the next. In this case, though, maybe you’re right and deep down there was a period of time when I was getting ready to implement all of it that I thought, ‘ I really want to see that through.’ It worked out well.
Gamble: And prior to that, you had a variety of different roles. Have you been able to draw from that experience — especially your time in consulting — in shaping your leadership philosophy?
Lindsay-Wood: It’s funny because I really was at two places in my whole healthcare IT career before consulting. I was at Sentara Healthcare, a large IDN that grew rapidly, and Tampa General Hospital, which is a huge tertiary care center. It has a very different footprint than Sentara; it’s localized and certainly not as big, but provides very complex care and high-end critical services. Two organizations in two very different settings.
And so for me, the value of consulting was in going out into a lot of organizations and seeing how people do things differently, while hopefully bringing in my expertise and knowledge. I really learned a lot about the different ways to run a businesses and run IT in different organizations, including Stanford and City of Hope.
All of that gave me a great opportunity without having to be a job-hopper. Because I was coming in to help — and working specifically with senior leadership — I was able to gain great insights and experience and learn about the different strategies and strategic plans at each place. In terms of cancer care, I did gain some knowledge prior to coming here, but since I’ve been with Moffitt, I’ve been able to get much deeper in my understanding of it. For me personally, that’s my mission.
Gamble: When you look at cancer care, it’s such a large umbrella. I would imagine there’s a steep learning curve.
Lindsay-Wood: Right. It’s funny because when you look at the three major EMRs, there are standard workflows that are out there in all of the hospitals, clinics and practices. But with something this specialized, there isn’t really a good playbook for standard EMR implementations. When you’re talking about high-end chemo and clinical trials for new drugs and treatments, it gets really complicated. And so when you look at what we would consider to be a standard EMR implementation, this is a one-off. It’s not in the playbook for any of the vendors. It really is very unique; each cancer has very specific needs that you don’t get in a generic order entry clinical documentation product. You have to extend those pretty dramatically to meet the needs of the organization.
Gamble: Right. Now, when you look at where health IT is headed, there seems to be much more emphasis on digital than in the past. Do you think the industry is moving in the right direction?
Lindsay-Wood: I do. I think there are always going to be early adopters and the laggards in anything that we do in healthcare IT, as you know. And I think digital is a journey. You don’t just install something and that means you’re digital. It doesn’t mean it’s adopted across the organization and embraced. It’s a journey; it’s hard work, just like EMRs and big data. It shouldn’t be a fad, even though sometimes it’s treated as one. We need to be very conscious of the bright and shiny objects versus let’s really leverage this to do something impactful.
I worry sometimes that people think if you say ‘digital,’ that means it’s easy and it’s layered on top of things. It can sometimes be more complex rather than making it easier. Again, it is a journey to become digital and understand what that really means. It’s a culture for the whole organization. It’s not just IT coming in with this cool toy. Because we do that; as CIOs, the tendency is to want to keep up and make sure we’re doing things that are late-breaking and edgy. But we also have to manage what that looks like in terms of supporting it and making sure it’s adopted. It’s like the agile framework: try and fail, try and fail, try and succeed. You have to be willing to take some risk, and be careful where you’re taking risks, because a lot of it is new.
But it’s fun, and it’s exciting. It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and see us really start to gain some traction where healthcare has behind the times. It’s great to have discussions with Amazon, Google and Apple and really start to see how we can bring these types of technologies and services into healthcare. It’s exciting. And it needs to be exciting, but it also needs to help with care of our patients, because that’s what we’re in the business to do.
Gamble: Well said. This has great; I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you, and I hope we can do it again in the future.
Lindsay-Wood: Anytime, it was fun.