Technology Planning for Future Growth

Moffitt Cancer Center is a beacon of hope and progress in the fight against cancer. It's also undergoing a massive period of growth with a goal to double its patient volume over the next five years. In this episode of "Leader to Leader," Chief Technology Officer Seth Peterson discusses the challenges of supporting Moffit's infrastructure as it exists today while planning for the future.

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Tampa-based Moffitt Cancer Center is rapidly expanding with hopes of doubling patient volume in the next five years.  It’s technology team, led by CTO Seth Peterson, is charged with enabling the IT infrastructure to scale with the organization. On this  episode of “Leader to Leader,” Peterson explains the strategic planning underway to build for the future, including investments in cloud and AI. He also describes his personal leadership journey, including his philosophy of ‘inviting others in’ and being present for his employees.

Key Takeaways:

  • Expansion and patient growth mean more data. In a growing organization, data governance is critical for scalability and long-term success.
  • Seth is transparent about exploring outsourcing and other workforce solutions. He wants his department to know that he’s trying to augment their skills, not replace them.
  • Before committing to a large project, Seth will ask his managers: “Are we doing too much”?  Leaders have to be cognizant of workload and the potential for burnout, especially in a growth organization.

In this podcast:

  • [01:50] Tampa-based Moffitt serves patients from all over the U.S. and the World.
  • [06:58] Exploring outsourcing and managed services to augment staff.
  • [13:30] On being present and being visible for your team.

Our Guest

Seth Peterson

As Chief Technology Officer for Moffitt Cancer Center, Seth Peterson is responsible for leading the Data Engineering and Interoperability, Technology Services, Technology Engineering, IT Customer Service, IT Service Management and Enterprise Architecture teams. These teams are responsible for the strategy, architecture and support for all technology infrastructure and communication systems across the enterprise.

Previously, Seth was Interim Senior Director of IT at Mt Sinai Health System in New York, and has held CTO and CIO roles at healthcare organizations in New Hampshire and West Virginia.


Seth Peterson [00:00:00]:

You know, our focus right now is very much a deep dive into the basic block and tackle. Like what do we have, where do we have it? Are we utilizing it to its full capability, and is it something that we think is going to provide value for us as we continue this kind of maturation process from what was a single campus entity not so long ago to now a full-blown health system?

Narrator [00:00:24]:

You from Healthcare IT Leaders, you’re listening to Leader to Leader with Ben Hilmes. Our guest today is Seth Peterson, chief technology officer at Moffitt Cancer Center. Seth has led Moffitt to long term success with his efforts to organize and scale data as the center has taken on an increasing number of patients.

Ben Hilmes [00:00:42]:

Welcome to Leader to Leader. It’s great to have you on the call. I’m really excited to see what you guys are doing at Moffitt cancer Center. I have spent a ton of time around Moffitt as a client throughout the years, and I can tell you every time I’m there it blows my mind. Just the amazing things that organizations that you guys are doing to take care of people that are going through a really tough time. So hats off to you and the team for all you’re doing there. It’s centered in Tampa, which is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. And along with that, Moffitt is seeing significant growth.

Ben Hilmes [00:01:21]:

So you opened a hospital last year. You’re breaking ground on a new campus. Talk to us a little bit about Moffitt. Kind of what’s the mission, the vision, kind of where you see it going.

Seth Peterson [00:01:32]:


Seth Peterson [00:01:33]:

Well, first of all, thanks for having me. Excited to be here. So Moffitt’s mission, very simple, to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.

Seth Peterson [00:01:42]:

It’s right on our side of our magnolia campus. So that’s it. Plain and simple.

Seth Peterson [00:01:46]:

Everything we do is geared towards exactly that. So Moffitt, while we’re Tampa based, we do see patients from all 67 counties in Florida, all 50 states and over 130 countries.

Seth Peterson [00:02:00]:

So our patient volume is more than just 35 miles radius that we’re kind of inside of Tampa. So as you mentioned, we did open a new surgical hospital in July of last year.

Seth Peterson [00:02:14]:

It’s already at 90 plus percent capacity. We have broken ground on our Spiros.

Seth Peterson [00:02:19]:

Florida campus, which is about a 775.

Seth Peterson [00:02:24]:

Acre track of land in Pasco county. And we’ve broken ground on a handful of buildings. As you mentioned, it’ll be a mixed use property of which Moffitt will own.

Seth Peterson [00:02:35]:

All of the land and have some of their own buildings in lease and space, et cetera.

Seth Peterson [00:02:40]:

Everything that we’re doing now, our concentration.

Seth Peterson [00:02:44]:

Is to support this growth.

Seth Peterson [00:02:46]:

What are we going to look like five years from now? Because we’re going to double our patient volume.

Seth Peterson [00:02:50]:

We’re not a merger and acquisition company. Everything we do is organic.

Seth Peterson [00:02:54]:

We build buildings and see more patients. How do we support that growth over.

Seth Peterson [00:03:00]:

The next three to five years? And then obviously beyond that’s great.

Ben Hilmes [00:03:07]:

Growth can be incredible opportunity, but it also creates a ton of challenges. And if you’re an IT guy, I’ve spent my entire career, you have two kind of inside information technology, but help me understand kind of the challenges that the growth has on you as an IT leader and really kind of contrast that to, you’re spending a ton of time just keeping up with the growth. Yet at the same time, I know you have a strategic plan, so you’re trying to balance the now and next. Talk to me how you put all that in perspective and execute against that.

Seth Peterson [00:03:46]:


Seth Peterson [00:03:46]:

So the really bad analogy that I use with my staff is Moffitt is.

Seth Peterson [00:03:50]:

Like a six foot, ten inch twelve year old. So there’s been a ton of growth.

Seth Peterson [00:03:56]:

There’S more growth ahead of us, and there’s a considerable amount of maturation and.

Seth Peterson [00:04:00]:

Catch up that has to happen.

Seth Peterson [00:04:03]:

Our brain and our feet are not necessarily on the same page at this point. So our focus right now is very much a deep dive into the basic blocking and tackling.

Seth Peterson [00:04:13]:

What do we have, where do we have it?

Seth Peterson [00:04:15]:

Are we utilizing it to its full capability?

Seth Peterson [00:04:18]:

And is it something that we think is going to provide value for us.

Seth Peterson [00:04:22]:

As we continue this kind of maturation.

Seth Peterson [00:04:25]:

Process from what was a single campus entity not so long ago to now.

Seth Peterson [00:04:32]:

A full blown health system?

Ben Hilmes [00:04:33]:

Let’s talk about data center. So in traditional technology speak, the data center was kind of the hub, the heart, if you would. The thing that ctos took pride and joy around, and many, many still do, but all the dialogue is, how do I get out of the data center today and get on this journey to cloud? Talk to us about how you are thinking about that, how you’re applying some of these new principles and kind of where are you on the journey and what do you expect to achieve through all of that?

Seth Peterson [00:05:05]:

Yeah, not unlike, I should say, other institutions that have gone through this kind of this transformation process. We’re predominantly data center driven today. Just because that worked, things just kind of sat there and ran. We know that we’ve got some large projects coming up, like an ERP project, for example, that’s going to shift a.

Seth Peterson [00:05:26]:

Significant amount of that data center to the cloud. But as we’re going through this assessment.

Seth Peterson [00:05:34]:

For lack of a better way to.

Seth Peterson [00:05:35]:

Put it, where our deep dive, we’re.

Seth Peterson [00:05:38]:

Looking at the assets that we have.

Seth Peterson [00:05:39]:

In that data center.

Seth Peterson [00:05:40]:

Does it make sense for them to stay there? Does it make sense to move them to the cloud? We look at just our data in general, data classification, data governance, how’s it stored?

Seth Peterson [00:05:48]:

Who accesses it?

Seth Peterson [00:05:49]:

What makes the most sense for that moving forward? Yeah, that’s a lot.

Ben Hilmes [00:05:53]:

I mean, it sounds like you’re being really great stewards of the investments you’ve made, right? Understanding, how do I get the most out of those? And yet, at the same time as you’re planning for the future, it’s not just the immediate future, but understanding. You guys are becoming a sizable, scalable organization. So decisions you make today have to be able to scale kind of beyond the near future, which is a lot of brain power and decision making that has to occur. A lot of dialogues, a lot of buy in. It’s a lot of work. So speaking of that, so as you’re growing, your is growing. So let’s talk workforce a little bit. So as you guys are grown, are you finding it, you guys are being successful at being able to hire into the demand, or are you looking at different models? Lots of discussions about outsourcing, managed services, offshoring going on in the industry.

Ben Hilmes [00:06:49]:

How are you guys approaching the workforce challenge?

Seth Peterson [00:06:53]:

We’re struggling for the same talent that everybody else is, obviously like the cloud engineers, data scientists. To answer your question, we’re approaching it with all the ways you just mentioned. We’re looking at nearshore, we’re looking at.

Seth Peterson [00:07:04]:

Offshore, we’re looking at managed services. Insert in the acronym you want as.

Seth Peterson [00:07:10]:

A service, infrastructure as a service. We’re exploring everything currently, but what’s key.

Seth Peterson [00:07:15]:

For us is that our staff understands that this is about augmentation, not about replacement. We’ve got a very talented group in our IT department, so how do I maximize that skill set?

Ben Hilmes [00:07:25]:

I love that. I appreciate the transparency. And I assume your associates do as well as being part of the solution versus getting the boom dropped on them on. Here’s the way we’re going without any input. So I know that’s highly appreciated. I’m sure relative to all of this, AI has become a buzword and there’s lots of dialogue around. It’s going to be transformative, and then there’s lots of concerns about security and safety, especially as you start to apply it to care delivery. How are you guys thinking about AI? How are you using AI? Kind of.

Ben Hilmes [00:08:06]:

What’s your general thoughts on that topic in general and then how you’re applying it to your work there.

Seth Peterson [00:08:14]:

At Moffitt, we have an AIML research department. So they’ve got a number of projects underway where they design, develop, translate, kind of patient centered machine deep learning algorithms from an oncology perspective. So they’ve got their stuff going on.

Seth Peterson [00:08:29]:

On the other side of the house.

Seth Peterson [00:08:31]:

We know people are accessing Chat GPT.

Seth Peterson [00:08:34]:

We know that it’s happening.

Seth Peterson [00:08:35]:

But from a Moffitt perspective, we’re moving cautiously.

Seth Peterson [00:08:39]:

We’re piloting copilot, so we have that.

Seth Peterson [00:08:42]:

Kicking off relatively soon. So we’re babysitting our way into this. The first question is, are permissions set accordingly?

Seth Peterson [00:08:50]:

Kind of across the house.

Seth Peterson [00:08:52]:

Obviously a very key thing to look at before you flip the switch on something.

Ben Hilmes [00:08:56]:


Seth Peterson [00:08:57]:

We’re a heavy Zoom shop.

Seth Peterson [00:08:59]:

So from a Zoom AI perspective, that’s.

Seth Peterson [00:09:02]:

Something that we’ve been asked now multiple times here very recently. Can we turn that on? Well, it’s not quite as simple as.

Seth Peterson [00:09:07]:

Just turning that on.

Seth Peterson [00:09:08]:

We have lots of questions surrounding access and how can we section some of that stuff off. And again, that’s the basic one, but we’re trying to figure out what works.

Seth Peterson [00:09:18]:

Best for us before we just let.

Seth Peterson [00:09:23]:

The masses start accessing anything AI related.

Ben Hilmes [00:09:27]:

Yeah, I don’t think that’s dissimilar from most health systems across the country. I mean, they’re highly optimistic, yet have to be very intentional about their organization. The potential downsides that may come with some of this know, and it doesn’t surprise me, Moffitt’s always been a very intentional. Deliberate, yeah, that’s a great word for it. Because they really do have their agenda. They’re going to continue to drive and not be too easily swayed to go one way or another. So it’s good that you guys are sticking to your core, which is good.

Seth Peterson [00:10:06]:


Ben Hilmes [00:10:07]:

So we’re going to pivot to leadership and talk a little bit about your career journey. You’ve had some CIO roles. You just came from outside a couple years ago. Now at Moffitt, talk to us about your career journey. Talk about being a CIO. Did your experience as a CIO really help you in your current role as a CTo? Talk about that journey for us.

Seth Peterson [00:10:32]:

Yeah, most of my career has been in healthcare. I had a short stint as a CIO in government, which probably will never do again for lots of different reasons. Having that CIO experience to me has been invaluable as having responsibility for the entire shop and smaller places. You get to learn the holistic view. I’m not a clinical person by training. You don’t want me to be.

Seth Peterson [00:11:01]:

But having those relationships and understanding inside the house as I kind of progress. Through my career, having applications and sitting.


Seth Peterson [00:11:09]:

On leadership teams with cnos, cfos, et.

Seth Peterson [00:11:14]:

Cetera, even though I don’t do that.

Seth Peterson [00:11:17]:

Today at Moffitt, but understanding that side of the house where our piece fits.

Seth Peterson [00:11:21]:

Into all of that.

Seth Peterson [00:11:22]:

We’re very much a support part of.

Seth Peterson [00:11:24]:

The organization and I understand where we fit into the big picture and so we can insert that into discussions. And when I go talk to and have meetings with folks at the VP.

Seth Peterson [00:11:36]:

Level about their plans as it relates to their portion of the business plan, I understand that based upon past experience and I think it helps when I.

Seth Peterson [00:11:49]:

Chat with the team, we really make an effort to understand the big picture. Yes, we’re a team of it folks, but we understand that there’s more to it than just a switch in a closet.

Seth Peterson [00:12:03]:

That switch supports nurses which support, obviously patients. But I think having that CIO experience.

Seth Peterson [00:12:09]:

Really helps me, again, see that big.

Seth Peterson [00:12:11]:

Picture much more clearly than had I not had it.

Ben Hilmes [00:12:13]:

Yeah, I think that’s incredible insight. And I always talk to our teams about being students of and the business we’re in is healthcare. We wake up every day at the intersection of healthcare and it so be a student of it and then figuring out how do you overlay that onto what it is you’re doing in your role. And I think you’ve done that in your career very successfully. So picking up all those things throughout those years, now it culminates into this role and you’re applying all those learnings into this role. That’s excellent. So I live in Kansas City and our offices, our headquarters are in Alpharetta, Georgia. You live in Ohio.

Seth Peterson [00:12:55]:


Ben Hilmes [00:12:56]:

And Moffitt’s in Tampa. We’re both examples of this hybrid workforce. I mean, I travel a ton. I assume you get down to Tampa quite a bit. There’s a lot of people in our kind of structure of work these days, and I’ve got my ways of trying to balance that. How do you balance the travel and the hybrid stuff? It’s a lot. It can become a lot on a leader specifically. So I’m just curious how you’ve created some balance around all that.

Seth Pterson [00:13:29]:

To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re.

Seth Peterson [00:13:31]:

On site or if you’re hybrid like.

Seth Peterson [00:13:33]:

Us or if you’re 100% remote, being present and being visible. There’s ways to do that.


Seth Peterson [00:13:37]:

Just like I think that’s key when I travel on site.

Seth Peterson [00:13:43]:

It’s not to force people to come in by any stretch of imagination. If it works out that my leadership.

Seth Peterson [00:13:49]:

Team can be in on site, great.

Seth Peterson [00:13:53]:

I think above all else, you kind.

Seth Peterson [00:13:55]:

Of forget about the travel piece of it.

Seth Peterson [00:13:57]:

It’s just being present for those folks and including folks.

Seth Peterson [00:14:00]:

And you can include folks easily on.

Seth Peterson [00:14:03]:

A Zoom call as you can and in person meeting.

Seth Peterson [00:14:05]:

That’s the focus.

Seth Peterson [00:14:06]:

It’s not so much on the travel.

Seth Peterson [00:14:07]:

It’s making sure that I’m present and visible.

Seth Peterson [00:14:10]:

Is it skip level meetings or just offering up time? I spend a lot of time really inviting folks into conversations because I value.

Seth Peterson [00:14:17]:

Their input and I think it’s important for them.

Seth Peterson [00:14:20]:

I got a lot of team.

Seth Peterson [00:14:21]:

It’s 100% remote or not.

Seth Peterson [00:14:25]:

Right now they might live in Texas.

Ben Hilmes [00:14:28]:

Right? Yeah, we’re seeing that. And that’s actually the reality, is the population of which you can recruit from has grew immensely post Covid in the sense that the virtual world has opened the talent pool up to just about everybody. And that creates opportunity, creates challenge. You guys got a lot going on. So inside of all of that, people can get burnt out. The stress levels are high. On top of just running an it organization, you got a lot of projects happening simultaneously. How do you one personally deal with keeping yourself from getting burned out? But then how do you think about working with your teams to identify if burnout is occurring and what you guys do to manage through that?

Seth Peterson [00:15:23]:

So I’ll start with the teams.

Seth Peterson [00:15:24]:

First, we asked the question, is this too much? Does this put too much of an.

Seth Peterson [00:15:30]:

Onus on you, your teams, your staff?

Seth Peterson [00:15:33]:

And we asked the front end team as well if we go this route.

Seth Peterson [00:15:38]:

Because, again, they’re part of the decision making process.

Seth Peterson [00:15:40]:

So they’re there at the beginning and.

Seth Peterson [00:15:43]:

They’Re there all the way through.

Seth Peterson [00:15:44]:

Now, we may not obviously, take somebody’s.

Seth Peterson [00:15:46]:

Idea and run with it every single time. So we ask that question, and we.

Seth Peterson [00:15:50]:

Ask it a lot, because you’re right, we do have a lot going on.

Seth Peterson [00:15:54]:

Last year, while we were finishing up the building of the hospital, there was a lot of answers of, no, we can’t get to that now.

Seth Peterson [00:16:01]:

Let us get through the opening of the hospital.

Seth Peterson [00:16:03]:

Give us two months to make sure.

Seth Peterson [00:16:04]:

That we’re solid there, and then we’ll pick back up. So I’m very cognizant of that.

Seth Peterson [00:16:11]:

And we really try to be very.

Seth Peterson [00:16:14]:

Mindful of people’s time.

Ben Hilmes [00:16:16]:

Yeah, I love that answer. I love that you’re transparent. I love the fact that you engage your associates in trying to be part of the solution. You ask the question directly, sometimes you want to know something, just ask, right? So putting it out there, is this too much? Being kind of self aware of those things and being willing to make it a safe zone environment that people can bring this up without retribution? I love all those things. So that’s excellent stuff. Well, Seth, this has been great. Really appreciate your time. I really appreciate your insights.

Ben Hilmes [00:16:56]:

You guys are doing wonderful things down there in Tampa at Moffitt, and I know you’re saving lives and hopefully learning something every day through your research that’s going to save even more. So I’m really, really thankful we could spend some time together and appreciate your time.

Seth Peterson [00:17:18]:

Yeah, Ben, thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.

Ben Hilmes [00:17:20]:

You bet. Seth has a big job in front of him managing all the growth at Moffitt. Here are my top takeaways from our conversation. One, expansion and patient growth mean more data in a growing organization. Data governance is critical for scalability and long term success. Two, Seth is transparent about exploring outsourcing and other workforce solutions. He wants his department to know that he’s trying to augment their skills and not replace them. Three, before committing to a large project, Seth will always ask his managers, are we doing too much? Leaders have to be cognizant of workload and the potential for burnout, especially in a growth organization. So what did you think? What were your big takeaways from this episode? I’d love to hear from you on our social media channels or drop me an email from our website at, thanks for joining us.

Narrator [00:18:15]:

For Leader to Leader to learn more about how to fuel your own personal leadership journey through the healthcare industry, free visit Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any insights and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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