The job of a cancer center CIO: Precision medicine, 'high-end' automation, lots of data

As CIO of one of the nation's largest cancer centers, City of Hope's Beth Lindsay-Wood is on the front lines of precision medicine, employing vast amounts of data to deliver individualized, targeted care to patients.

"How do we customize cancer care, based on your genetics, based on your environment, all the things that are important to making sure that you're getting the right treatment as a patient?" Ms. Lindsay-Wood, who is also a senior vice president, told Becker's. "And so we spend a lot of time looking at how to collect all the data that you need to look at what works best for that type of patient."

It's one of the differentiators between her job and that of a CIO at a regular hospital or health system. She also focuses on academic medicine and the research and clinical trials that go along with it. So Duarte, Calif.-based City of Hope has comparatively "high-performance computing needs," she said.

"How do we support and automate all of that work for very high-end treatments?" she said. "We're not talking about primary care visits. We're not talking about health maintenance. It's also very high-end lab work that we're doing. So it does require complex systems, complex technologies to support that and a different kind of skill set, frankly, within IT."

She's also been helping the organization through its acquisition of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which turned City of Hope into a national cancer center and doubled its size. She's been looking for ways to improve efficiencies systemwide, through avenues like robotic process automation and applying artificial intelligence to discharges to better manage capacity.

Ms. Lindsay-Wood has also overseen health IT for traditional healthcare organizations, serving as vice president and IT director of Norfolk, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare and senior vice president and CIO of Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital. She was most recently vice president and CIO of Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

She's witnessed the changing role of the CIO. When she began her career, it wasn't even called a CIO. Fast forward to 2022, and the titles of top health IT execs are changing again.

"Back in time, the CIOs were really technicians," she said. "They were technologists. They knew the hardware and the infrastructure because that was really how it all started." She said they were more akin to the chief technology officers of today.

She said CIOs are taking on more business and strategic responsibilities, and helping create entire new revenue streams (think virtual care).

She has also seen the rise in automation. When EHRs came out, there was some, with labs and radiology, though it wasn't user-friendly, she said. Now automated tech reaches physician engagement and beyond to other parts of the health system, including human resources, supply chain and finance.

Ms. Lindsay-Wood views her job as using technology to improve both the patient and employee experience at City of Hope. It also helps to have a common purpose, she said.

"It's all about cancer care, right? The mission, the culture of the organization is all very focused, very intense," Ms. Lindsay-Wood said. "I love the culture. Everybody understands what the mission is."

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