Christina Zorn reveals how Mayo Clinic is emphasizing people and purpose to transform the entire healthcare industry as we know it.
A Path to Healthcare
“I always loved science. It was just fascinating to me. I wanted to be a physician growing up because it was more than just the study of science; it was the opportunity to apply it and help people,” shares Christina Zorn, Chief Administrative Officer at Mayo Clinic. While she initially imagined herself working in healthcare at the bedside, Christina would ultimately find herself serving patients through a different path – one that would allow her to lead a transformation of the healthcare industry by placing a strong emphasis on people and technology. Starting her undergrad as a pre-med major, Christina adjusted her focus during her senior year, opting to attend law school instead.
“Law school was very different than studying science in undergrad. It was such an interesting way of thinking, and I loved the analytical aspect of it,” describes Christina. Recognizing she still had a passion for helping others and wanted to work within healthcare, Christina found a law firm representing the University of Nebraska Medical Center and interned there. “I was doing work as a hospital attorney at an internship level. I was still connected to the science, and that enabled me to focus on health law as an opportunity,” she elaborates.
After some time in private practice, Christina transitioned to Mayo Clinic in Florida as an in-house attorney. “Mayo Clinic was looking for someone with experience with privacy and security; there weren’t a lot of attorneys with that emphasis at the time,” she summarizes. “It was my natural curiosity that brought me to Mayo Clinic – once I arrived there, my curiosity didn’t stop, and I volunteered for a lot of other responsibilities that were not part of my job description, which took me to administration,” Christina shares with a smile.
Finding Purpose at Mayo Clinic
Christina eventually took the full leap into administration and accepted the Chief Administrative Officer role in Florida. After seven years leading in that role, she took on the responsibility of Chief Administrative Officer of the entire Mayo Clinic enterprise, which includes major campuses in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona, as well as campuses around the world. As part of her role, Christina is responsible for administrative functions in clinical practice, research, education, international, digital businesses, and enterprise shared services. In partnership with Dr. Gianrico Farrugia, Mayo Clinic’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Christina is responsible for the strategy and operations of the entire organization. “We have 76,000 employees, and we’re continuing to grow. Last year we had 15,000 employees start a new role at Mayo Clinic, which is incredible growth given the staffing issues across healthcare right now,” Christina relates. “I’m really proud that Mayo Clinic is a place that people want to start and continue their careers,” she adds.
Mayo Clinic’s mission of ‘inspiring hope and promoting health through integrated clinical practice, education, and research’ is a huge draw for employees and patients alike. “The values-based culture and the environment here are unlike any other place. I knew that at Mayo Clinic, I would have a direct impact on patients and healthcare transformation. I’m grateful for the privilege of working for something bigger than myself,” Christina affirms.
"The values-based culture and the environment here are unlike any other place. I knew that at Mayo Clinic, I would have a direct impact on patients and healthcare transformation. I’m grateful for the privilege of working for something bigger than myself.”
Enabling Purpose Through Technology
Christina makes it clear that people and purpose are the utmost priority – for her and Mayo Clinic – and technology is the enabler making it possible. “If you think about our mission of providing the best healthcare, focused on putting the needs of the patient first, it relies entirely on technology. We have a strong partnership with our IT leaders and our information technology and security teams, and we challenge them to be an ally to the entire organization,” expresses Christina.
In 2018, Mayo Clinic acted on its purpose and embarked on a strategy to transform the organization. The 2030 “Bold. Forward.” Strategy focuses on three main areas – cure, connect, and transform. “We see this strategy as a blueprint for transforming the entire healthcare sector,” Christina proclaims. “The premise of the plan is to transform healthcare while preserving our identity as the place for hope and healing,” she elaborates.
Cure. In alignment with the first element of the strategy, Mayo Clinic will deliver more cures for both complex and chronic diseases. The organization’s practice and research shields partner together to discover and diffuse new diagnoses, treatments, surgeries and procedures. “Our focus on cures is really about innovating to improve diagnoses and treatment for patients who need complex or serious care. At the root of everything we do, we are a healthcare provider, and we have to deliver the absolute best care to our patients,” Christina conveys.
Connect. Encompassing the second component of the strategy, Mayo Clinic believes in connecting people with data to create new knowledge and deliver solutions that meet patients wherever they are, simplifying the notoriously complex healthcare arena. “People expect healthcare to be much more intuitive, convenient, and accessible, and it’s our job to deliver on that expectation,” Christina remarks. “We make sure that the patients who want to come here have the information they need and can work through their local provider to make it seamless. Through "Connect," we’re aiming to enhance affordability, accessibility, and the patient experience,” says Christina.
Transform. Mayo Clinic recognized the need to transform as the third tenet of the strategy. The organization desires to move from a traditional pipeline model to a scalable, AI-enabled platform model. “We know that if we provide trusted information, enable algorithms and AI, and push these innovations out to others, we can raise the standard of healthcare across the world,” Christina emphasizes.
Most would expect healthcare disruption to come from the typical players in technology; in fact, many people would suggest that Mayo Clinic’s goal is too lofty. “We believe it’s long overdue. The only way to get there is to disrupt from within. Major tech companies have incredible resources at their discretion, but they don’t understand healthcare like we understand healthcare. We need to do this together,” remarks Christina.
"We see this strategy as a blueprint for transforming healthcare.”
People Matter Most
In order to achieve Mayo Clinic’s 2030 Bold. Forward. Strategy to cure, connect, and transform healthcare, Christina is emphasizing two key enablers of transformation over the next several years – simplification and innovation. “They go hand-in-hand – we have to identify the true value-adds, so we can stop doing the things that don’t make sense, free up time to be more innovative, and do work that brings joy and matters the most,” explains Christina.
Some of the most seemingly unexciting work can be the most impactful. “For example, in healthcare, there’s a complicated process to get providers reimbursed or for patients to understand their bill. It’s truly a regulatorily-dictated administrative problem. We’re working with payers and third-party administrators to help us understand the barriers and remove complexity from the process,” Christina shares. “Getting a thirty-step process down to five doesn’t sound that exciting, but it makes a huge difference for the patient who cannot understand their bill or for a provider who has spent years on those 30 steps in order to get fairly reimbursed.”
The ultimate goal is to reimagine the healthcare system piece-by-piece in an effort to make it work better for everyone. “It’s critical that we understand how important people are, especially in today’s environment. As an employer and as a healthcare provider, we create an environment at Mayo Clinic that puts people first, no matter if you’re a patient, employee, caregiver, or a business partner,” states Christina.
When asked about advice to other business leaders in the community who are similarly seeking to transform their organization or industry, Christina offers, “What I would tell others is to put people first, and that will serve you well.”
"Major tech companies have incredible resources at their discretion, but they don’t understand healthcare like we understand healthcare. We need to do this together.”
ABOUT MAYO CLINIC
Mayo Clinic is the largest integrated, not-for-profit medical group practice in the world and is rooted in embracing innovation to solve difficult and complex healthcare challenges. With an unwavering drive to create better medical care, Mayo Clinic has earned more top rankings for high-quality patient care than any other healthcare organization. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Mayo Clinic as the number 1 hospital overall and top-ranked in 14 specialties.