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RED HOT Contributors


Episode 33 – The ‘MOTHER’ Standard of Cancer Care


Back in 1988, a son’s promise to his dying mother led to the founding of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). Today CTCA has become a major cancer center, leading care outcomes, hospital ratings, and patient satisfaction.

Today we welcome Kristin Darby, Chief Information Officer of CTCA to the show. She’s going to share their unique model of culture, engagement, patient experience, and the recent transformation of their care pathway and workflow. CTCA is primarily a direct-to-consumer network of adult treatment facilities, including hospitals in Chicago, Philadelphia, Tulsa, Phoenix, and Atlanta.

She is also the strategist and architect for CTCA’s information services and informatics program, leading initiatives around precision medicine and value based care. 

Prior to this, Kristin was the Divisional CIO at Vanguard Health System, preceded by a CIO role in risk management for Harvard Medical Institutions. Separately, she is an inventor and a US and EU patent holder for a patient safety and education system that is used at over 300 outpatient dialysis clinics.

In this Red Hot Healthcare episode, Dr. Steve and Kristin Darby discuss:

  • CTCA’s patient portal sign-up rates of 85% (WOW!)
  • A big push to consumerism – BEFORE it become the norm
  • The tremendous importance of culture
  • The ‘MOTHER’ standard of care
  • A charge to deliver on precision-based advanced care
  • Success on integrating with Salesforce in personalizing the patient
  • CTCA’s partnering with Allscripts and NantHealth on a new initiative

The following is just a short snippet from this engaging interview between Dr. Steve and Kristin Darby on Red Hot Healthcare.

****[on Healthcare Consumerism and the Importance of Culture]****

Dr. Steve: “One of the real big buzzwords today Kristin is consumerism. It’s on everyone’s lips…everywhere.

One of the aspects I like about CTCA, is that they were deep into consumerism – even before its time. Now, we have a lot of hospitals and health systems scrambling, as deductibles and co-pays are going up, and patients are paying more of their bills.

I’ve known about CTCA or years; and I think that…really, that your organization has been all about the consumer…and the patient all the way since it’s beginning. I’d like you to touch on that a bit more.

Kristin Darby: “Absolutely. You know consumerism was really revolutionary [back in 1988]when CTCA was founded. Our patient-centric culture was really built around the fact that patients DO have a choice when selecting a provider. Based on that, we want to make sure that they always feel value in the care delivery we’re providing, and as part of the relationship that we have with them.

Health care is very personal, and everyone’s individual journey is very unique – especially when they are battling a disease such as cancer. So based on that, we understand that the choice that every choice a patient or consumer is making, relies on different factors.

This means that we need to prioritize the relationship that we build with the patient or consumer – so that it’s personal. That we can understand them, and what they value. Then we adapt our model to provide a hopeful, healing, and compassionate environment that we want to provide to all patients.

And also that we consistently live up to providing the ‘mother’ standard of care.

Dr. Steve: What I like too, and we talked about this off-air Kristin, is the patient-centric culture your organization has. A lot of it seems to come from CTCA’s heavy investment in culture – and specifically in which people they decide to recruit, hire and bring aboard on their teams.

Talk about how important recruitment is, and how everyone is truly together on the same mission.”

Kristin Darby: “They have really created a unique culture that not only exists at each of our sites – but also across all of them. This is incredibly difficult for organizations to do.

I believe that this has been sustainable, through recruitment and embodying our employees as stakeholders. That happens at any job, be it at the bedside or in an administrative capacity. That everyone in the organization, no matter the position, has responsibility in the patient experience.

That often extends the recruitment process for many months. We’re looking for individuals who will truly and emotionally connect with the patient – and not just look at this as a job”.


 I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Steve Ambrose on a podcast that covered a range of topics in healthcare information technology. The podcast logistics – communications, interview questions, scheduling and production – were every well managed.
A great experience that I would do again in an instance.

Dr. John Glaser
SVP, Population Health at CERNER

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