Health innovation insider: 7 rapid-fire Qs with Memorial Sloan Kettering digital chief Dr. Claus Torp Jensen

Claus Torp Jensen, PhD, leads Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's digital transformation and data strategies at time when innovations are rapidly accelerating in wake of COVID-19.

Dr. Jensen joined the New York City-based hospital in fall 2019 as its first chief digital officer. Previously, he served as chief technology officer and head of architecture at CVS Health and Aetna as well as in various tech leadership roles at IBM and Danske Bank.

Here, Dr. Jensen shares rapid-fire insights on COVID-19 innovations in healthcare and opportunities for digital transformation growth across the industry.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What COVID-19 data dashboard do you find yourself checking the most? 

Dr. Claus Jensen: The dashboard showing infection rates as a percentage of the number of tests performed at MSK. We are fortunate that from the very beginning of the pandemic our researchers and clinicians developed in-house testing, and we have been able to continuously test both patients and MSK staff.

Q: If you had to choose just one, which one of your organization's IT achievements has made you most proud during the pandemic?

CJ: That we kept everything running and never left MSK without the systems and tools needed to get the job done. Throughout the unpredictable environment of 2020, we always managed to 'just in time' stay ahead of changing technology needs.

Q: In which ways do you think the pandemic has catalyzed innovation in health IT?

CJ: The real game changer is not actually health IT in isolation, but rather holistic innovation fueled by the fusion of clinical, digital and technology change. When we put our collective minds to a problem or opportunity, we can do so much more than any of us could do in isolation.

Q: How do you think the pandemic has shined a greater light on predictive analytics?

CJ: By illustrating how impossible it is to predict anything large with certainty. There is so much value in 'prediction in the small,' and we need to unleash that – not as an alternative to more deterministic approaches, but as an embedded ingredient in everything we do. The most powerful approach to predictive analytics is to simply make it a habit to always ask: 'which predictive insight would help me with what I am doing right now?'

Q: How would you most like to see health IT further adapt to the pandemic?

CJ: We live in a Next Normal where change is a constant. Finding the right balance between excellence, experience, safety and speed is the challenge of our generation. I am confident that we are up to the task.

Q: What's the first word that comes to mind when you think about your innovation team's response to COVID-19?

CJ: Inspiring.

Q: What's been the biggest roadblock to COVID-19 innovation? 

CJ: The fact that healthcare remains somewhat disconnected data and process wise. Our patients rightfully expect us to be able to automatically connect the dots across time and space, not just within MSK but also across all of healthcare. We must collectively get better at that, remove friction and make it easy to get the help you need.

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