Leaders of Innovation: Lesley Solomon of Dana Farber Cancer Institute

Posted February 13, 2018
By Julia Zehel

Adopting innovative technologies in healthcare is something that has the power to transform care delivery, but it’s also something that requires intensive thought, analysis, and planning. But above all, innovation adoption requires leadership that deeply understands the pain points and needs of the providers and patients they serve.

We started our “Leaders in Innovation” blog series with the aim of shining a spotlight on the people who listen to their clinicians and patients and understand what needs to be done in order to improve healthcare. Roy Rosin of PennMedicine kicked off the series by sharing his insights about what areas PennMedicine is looking to advance, and Chen Cao of Brigham and Women’s weighed in on what initiatives he’s most excited about in 2018 as well.

Today, we’re excited to feature Lesley Solomon, Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s Chief Innovation Officer.


What was your team’s biggest accomplishment this year?

Our biggest accomplishment this year would be that Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) expanded the use of our RTLS (real-time location system) to the Jimmy Fund Clinic to support the care of our pediatric patients and their family members.

When we opened the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care in 2011, we deployed a RTLS to support the coordination of care and flow of our adult patients. When our new Jimmy Fund space opened in 2015, there was an opportunity to expand the use of this technology to support our pediatric patients and their providers as well. We didn’t initially install the system, but once it became clear that patient flow, resource usage, and wait times were becoming challenges in the new space, we decided to expand the solution.

The specific goals were to:

    1. Decrease patient wait times in:
      1. Check in area 
      2. Exam room waiting for provider
    2. Improve patient and clinic flow
      1. Decrease bottlenecks in vitals and blood draw areas
      2. Understand exam and infusion room utilization
    3. Increase room turnover:
      1. Empty to occupied
      2. Dirty to cleaned
    4. Decrease time spent looking for patients

Using this new RTLS tool, we’ve seen improvements in each of the above areas. It’s encouraging for us to implement a tool that helps patients feel more at ease and comfortable in our facility while also helping us be more efficient in care delivery.


What’s an example of a new tool or solution that made a meaningful impact on your organization, patients, or providers?

This year we rolled out DFCI’s first patient-facing app,  MyDFCI, a user-friendly mobile app that allows patients, family members, and providers to easily find, favorite, and contact the many available resources throughout Dana-Farber.

Features of MyDCFI include:

The app was developed with input from our Patient and Family Advisory Committee which includes patients, caregivers and DFCI staff. This input was critical to ensure that what we developed was tailored specifically to the needs of our patients.


Is there an area you’ve specifically identified as the next target for innovation? Any pain points you’re looking to address in 2018?

We have two key targets for innovation in 2018, and we’re in the process of exploring potential solutions for both of these challenges.

Number one is support for symptom management and adherence. Our patients often experience adverse symptoms related to their treatment and need to reach us for advice and care between visits. In addition, with the move to more oral chemotherapy options, we are looking for ways to help patients consistently and reliably take their medications when prescribed. Both of these, if better supported, have the potential to improve patient satisfaction and reduce the need for acute or emergency care.

The second pain point we’re focusing on is managing clinician burnout. Clinician burnout is a recurring theme from both a recent survey and input from our clinicians. We need to find ways to make the lives of our clinicians easier; this could involve more seamless IT, innovations in how we deliver care and other aspects that better support our clinicians.

We’re moving into 2018 excited about the improvements we’ll be able to afford providers in feeling less fatigued or stressed. We know that addressing this growing problem will have a positive impact not only on our clinicians, but on patient care as well.


Thank you to Lesley for sharing her reflections and ambitions for innovating in the coming year. To learn more about Lesley’s work at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, please click here.