IT Bridges Clinical-Research Gap

Sloan-Kettering CIO looks to knowledge-management technology

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

February 14, 2002

2 Min Read

From the moment she considered working at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Pat Skarulis liked its strong sense of mission: to cure cancer. "It's something you can feel," says the new CIO and VP of IS at the world-renowned cancer center in New York. "In our two-day orientation, I was blown away by how much you felt everyone makes a difference to the patient with cancer--from the doorman to the internists to the IT staff."

IT may have an even bigger impact under Skarulis' direction. She's focused on how technology can improve collaboration between the hospital's two main operations--its cancer center, which does clinical care, and the institute, which focuses on research and advancing Sloan-Kettering's health-care practices in the process.

"I want to see links for research," Skarulis says, pointing out that the hospital collects much patient data on blood and tissues and other clinical information. "How can we link that information and use computers to more effectively bring clinic and research together?" she adds.

IT and knowledge sharing can bring doctors together and get people out of the lab, CIO Skarulis says.

Clinicians and researchers collaborate well on a personal level, but Skarulis wants them to be able to continuously share the data they collect. Greater access to clinicians' information will assist basic scientists with their research, and improved access to research data will help medical clinicians provide better patient care. With just a couple of weeks on the job, it's too early to chart a detailed course, but Skarulis says knowledge-management technology can be a linchpin of the effort.

"IT and knowledge sharing can bring doctors together and bring people out of the lab," Skarulis says. "Think of the people working with the Bunsen burners and gene-splicing machines: This gets them sharing with other experts."

Sloan-Kettering's mission is made real in many ways every day, including working with staffers who are cancer survivors themselves, she says. Skarulis oversees an IT staff of more than 300 people, and she reports to executive VP John Gunn. She has high praise for her predecessor, Wei-Tih Cheng, who left in March to become CIO at Aetna Inc. "He built a remarkable group here," she says. "It's a well-run organization, and there are a lot of things we can do."

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