Becker's Health IT + Revenue Cycle 2020: 4 Questions with Rebecca Kaul, Chief Innovation Officer & David Jaffray, Chief Technology and Digital Officer for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Rebecca Kaul serves as Chief Innovation Officer and Vice President for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. David Jaffray, PhD, serves as Chief Technology and Digital Officer for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

On October 14th, Rebecca will serve on the keynote panel "Balancing Innovation and Data Privacy" and on October 15th, Dr. Jaffray will serve on the panel "Key Innovations in Telehealth, Mobile Health and Technology in Hospitals and Systems" at Becker's Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place October 13-16, 2020 at Navy Pier, Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Rebecca and Dr. Jaffray's sessions, click here.

Question: What technology has taken on greater significance or value during the pandemic?

Rebecca Kaul & David Jaffray: At The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the safety of our patients is our highest priority. The best way to keep them safe during this pandemic is to keep them at home while still delivering the highest level of care. Virtual care has enabled us to do this, with virtual visits, home monitoring capabilities and broader digital engagement to keep our patients informed every step of the way.

Q: How has the coronavirus pandemic forced a paradigm shift in your line of work, from your perspective?

RK & DJ: Coronavirus has increased the necessity for digital platforms and innovation. With patients, faculty, and staff in separate locations, there is a heavy reliance on technology to communicate and collaborate in ways that were ordinarily done in person. This has ignited the need for new creative methods and technologies to not only run our business but to transform the way in which we operate. One of the biggest challenges in innovation is not the creation of new technologies or methods, but the organizational and cultural change needed to deliver at scale and make an impact. This pandemic has forced people to confront change head-on and quickly adapt. The COVID-19 crisis will have long term impact through enabling our workforce to be more efficient and effective with new tools and methods available and a renewed mindset and openness for transformational change.

Q: What is the most underrated trait of the best leaders?

RK & DJ: A leadership trait often overlooked is the ability for the leader to identify their success not on their personal accomplishments, but with the success of his/her team. Having a team of diverse skillsets to complement the leader’s strengths and weaknesses are key. Leaders often hire people like themselves who make them comfortable. A great leader does just the opposite – he/she hires people who challenge him/her to think differently and provide alternative perspectives. Through “less comfortable” dialog, a better solution is often formed than any party would have devised alone. Thus, the leader’s success is represented by the accomplishments of his/her team and the leadership insight to select, manage, and facilitate a greater purpose. Building a high performing team and identifying with its success is harder than most individual endeavors.

Q: What fundamentals would you encourage your peers to revisit and refine when it comes to health IT and revenue cycle management?

RK & DJ: As we have often said, when it comes to digital transformations, it is not about adopting digital technologies, it is about changing the way we work in a digital world. The COVID-19 crisis has emphasized the need for strong digital teams and infrastructure and has focused everyone on data and data science capabilities like never before. Organizations that have been preparing will accelerate through this crisis to a new digitally enabled future that provides safer, more effective care while also automating for efficiency.

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