In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 21, 2019

From Chief Information Officer to Cancer Patient and Back Again

By In the Loop

After a cancer diagnosis, Mayo Clinic chief information officer Cris Ross got a firsthand look at the importance of continuously working toward improved health care IT. 

Over the past few years, Mayo Clinic has been making big changes in its information technology. Think electronic health record conversion. A new artificial intelligence program. Heightened information security. As Mayo Clinic's chief information officer, Cris Ross was one of many helping to navigate it all.

He would get a different view of these changes last July, when he was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. "I was told it was pretty serious," he said while sharing his story at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's 2019 conference. Even so, thanks to the skill and dedication of his Mayo Clinic care team, Ross says there's hope on the horizon. "I've got a little further to go, but after this journey, my caregivers think that I can be cancer-free," he told the audience.

While Ross knows his cancer journey and patient experience "is not unique," he also knows it's forever changed the way he'll look at his job at Mayo Clinic once he returns in full force — and hopefully full health — later this spring. "We [Mayo Clinic] rolled out our new EHR as planned, and a few weeks later, I was being treated using that new system. Talk about eating your own cooking," he told the crowd gathered at the conference. As he underwent his "MRIs and CT scans, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, lab appointments and office visits," Ross says he "sometimes had to cringe at seeing a clinician struggle with something that we simply haven't mastered yet."

Ross says that's helped to shine a light on some of the challenges and opportunities for improvement that lie ahead for health care IT. "We know we can do better," he told his colleagues. And doing better, he said, means "being intolerant of the mediocre, and trust and collaboration between clinicians and technology professionals."

You can listen to his full address here. And you can read more about Ross' newfound perspective on improving Mayo Clinic's comprehensive information technology services for the good of all patients here.

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Tags: colorectal cancer, Cris Ross, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, Information Technology, Patient Stories, Staff Stories

Excellent presentation and attitude by Christopher Ross. I am an IT professional and a Mayo Clinic patient that travels for my medical. I wish you would could have mentioned improvements coming in the billing process along with the data sharing. I spend more time in resolving the billing process than time in the clinic or procedures. Many are still unresolved and I am in collections for appts that were supposed to be covered. I am the monkey in the middle when I should be concentrating on being a pretransplant patient. I am glad you are working on Design Thinking and Customer Centric designs.

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