'It shouldn't be an afterthought': Mayo Clinic's 1st chief digital officer on the importance of equity, inclusion in digital health 

Since joining Mayo Clinic in December 2019 as its first chief digital officer, Rita Khan has been leading the health system's COVID-19 digital health initiatives from telehealth expansion to data mapping and consumer engagement. 

Ms. Khan brings consumer and retail expertise to her position at the Rochester, Minn.-based health system, having previously held product-focused roles at companies including Best Buy, Target and Macy's. She transitioned into the healthcare industry through her position as senior vice president of consumer digital at UnitedHealthcare before joining Mayo Clinic. 

"My background is in retail, and I’ve spent a lot of time working for strong consumer brands in addition to my experience in healthcare insurance. People generally want convenience, value and experience personalized to their needs," she told Becker's Hospital Review. "In healthcare they also want access, affordability, transparency and strong health outcomes so that they can be empowered to make better decisions."  

Here, Ms. Khan discusses Mayo Clinic's primary value of its consumerism strategy as well as her team's digital initiatives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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

Question: Looking back on your first year as chief digital officer at Mayo Clinic, what would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?

Rita Khan: This is a brand new role at Mayo Clinic, and it signals strongly how critical digital health is for the health system's strategic direction, which is centered on three major themes: to cure, connect and transform health. This was meant to be a busy year even without the pandemic, but one thing I feel very proud of is how quickly we were able to pivot to telemedicine.

During this pandemic, the Center for Connected Care, now part of our Center for Digital Health, was instrumental in allowing Mayo Clinic to deliver care safely through a portfolio of digital solutions. The team extended existing reach though our patient online portal, telehealth services and eConsults, and quickly developed new solutions, including our COVID-19 assessment and map. To put it in perspective — the share of remote visits at all Mayo Clinic locations rose from 4 percent before the pandemic to 85 percent at its peak. I'm very proud of the work we have done to serve our patients and providers during this time and harness this learning. We did not lose sight of our longer term strategy in the process, and the pandemic has served as a catalyst for our vision to explore and accelerate new ways of reaching our patients and creating an unparalleled experience for consumers.     

Q: What is the No. 1 lesson/takeaway you've learned about healthcare consumerism and digital transformation, and how are you applying it to initiatives at Mayo Clinic?

RK: My background is in retail, and I’ve spent a lot of time working for strong consumer brands in addition to my experience in healthcare insurance. People generally want convenience, value and experience personalized to their needs. In healthcare they also want access, affordability, transparency and strong health outcomes so that they can be empowered to make better decisions. The healthcare industry is extremely fragmented and it is difficult to provide a simplified and seamless experience. Driven by our primary value — the needs of the patient come first — we are working toward creating an experience that is simple, convenient and personalized, one that meets the evolving needs of consumers. The other component that is critical is unleashing our data and AI capabilities to power our digital solutions in support of our strategy to cure, connect and transform.            

Q: How have you engaged teams and led digital transformation during this unprecedented time?

RK: To translate Mayo Clinic's strategy of cure, connect and transform into an effective digital strategy, we started with the needs of our consumers both internally and externally to understand what matters to them, what jobs to be done — from their perspective —  are most critical, and what will advance our business goals. The goal is to bring the Mayo Model of Care, a set of principles that has guided our organization for more than 150 years, to patients globally. We want to ensure we can bring forward Mayo’s unique intersection between research, clinical practice and education to advance medicine everywhere.

Mayo Clinic has a rich history and culture of innovation and resilience, but the last several months have required speed, creativity and innovation to solve new challenges in a fast paced environment. This has helped us harness innovation across the organization to accelerate our overarching digital strategy. We are also transforming how we work. We are advancing our digital product management discipline, agile practices and agile funding, as well as investing in world class digital talent across diverse industries to augment our internal expertise.         

Q: With the U.S. beginning to kick off its widespread COVID-19 vaccine campaign, how are you helping Mayo on the digital and IT side of the process?  

RK: Many areas within our Center for Digital Health are engaged to support vaccinations including driving trusted information on Mayoclinic.org, enhancing our Mayo Clinic App to make it easier to share vaccination information and leveraging existing communication methods to make it easier to get your second vaccination.   

Q: What advice do you have for other hospital chief digital officers amid the COVID-19 resurgence and as we head into the new year? 

RK: This pandemic has created a seismic shift in the adoption of virtual solutions from both patients and providers. Understanding how to integrate these solutions to improve access to care, integrate into clinical workflows, reduce burden, drive a better patient experience and ultimately improve health are even more critical. This requires close partnership with our clinical practice and research teams, as opposed to siloed digital teams with limited insight to what matters in patient care. This period has also exposed the need to work differently to drive efficiencies, speed and support rapid innovation to keep pace with consumer expectations and other market forces. I’d also like to emphasize our role in supporting equity and inclusion through the products, services and algorithms we build. It shouldn't be an afterthought. We collectively need to seize this moment to help transform our industry on behalf of the people we serve.    

More articles on digital transformation: 
6 recent health IT, innovation partnerships
Optum Ventures, Centene join $18M funding round for health data interoperability company
Philips makes $2.8B acquisition to strengthen cardiac business: 5 details

© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2021. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.

 

Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars