Digital technology empowers patients to set their own course of care.

Digital technology is empowering patients to participate in developing their own treatment plans, but only if the organization’s culture is ready and willing, says Kristin Darby, CIO of Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “We crave constructive disruption, so we are always challenging ourselves with the question, ‘how can technology positively impact our patients?’ If there’s value for the patient, we’re interested and we dig deeper.” Darby spoke with MIT Sloan Management Review guest editor Gerald C. Kane about how digital disruption has changed her company's leadership perspective.

What is Cancer Treatment Centers of America doing with respect to digital, and what are you most excited about going forward?

The approach at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is extremely patient-centric, and our strong focus on digital supports this commitment because technology does not forget that the patient comes first. This approach is vital because it provides different avenues for connecting with our patients in a non-traditional way. We see our relationships with patients as a series of different touch points along a continuum. As we move along that continuum, it’s very important to us to know that if a patient hears the words, “you have cancer,” they can rely on us as a trusted resource — either in person or digitally, based on the patient preference.

We have a core philosophy that patients should be active members of their care team, empowered with access to their own health information — lab tests, scan results, any of those types of things — at the same time as their care team. Our proprietary patient portal enables our patients to access the same information at the same time as their physicians. Currently, this portal has a utilization rate of approximately 85%, while most health care providers are aiming for a rate of 5%. This rate highlights the strength of the unique culture CTCA has created around digital concepts. Our patients understand that the choices they make in their care process can influence their outcomes in a positive way, so we try to provide the platforms that encourage strong connectivity and empowerment.