How to Make Your Medical Center an Innovation Powerhouse

It’s up to you to translate ideas into innovations in your institution

By Toby Cosgrove, MD

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Medicine attracts smart people, many of whom have great ideas. An idea, though, is just the beginning. Ideas need to become innovations, and innovations need to be deployed for the benefit of patients and organizations. It’s up to you to make that happen in your organization.

First, support your innovators by cultivating the spirit of discovery. Never say, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Encourage new ideas, understand that there will be a certain number of failures, and honor successful innovation, then give innovators a generous share of the rewards.

Keep your innovations in house, and institutionalize the commercialization process. Assure that sound ideas get the critical mass of support they need to get to market and succeed, by assessing the need and commercial viability of the product, while also establishing a formal process for disclosure and peer review.

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Create a development plan for new products, by reaching out to your contacts to determine what kind of reception it might have or by conducting formal market studies. Define and refine your product in response to what you learn.

Finally, use your institutional clout to interest corporate partners and investors, negotiating the best terms. Create spin-offs, licenses and equity partnerships. And invest in your own companies, holding on to them as long as you can to increase their value.

INVENT at Cleveland Clinic

At Cleveland Clinic, we’ve boiled these steps down to the acronym, INVENT: Ideas; Need; Viability; Enhancement; Negotiations; Translation. We have an in-house team called CC Innovations to manage the INVENT process from beginning to end. Clinical and research areas have embedded innovations managers and peer review committees. All of our caregivers have access to an online Innovation Toolkit that guides them through the process of submitting an idea and making it viable.

The process I have described works. Over the past 16 years, CC Innovations has acted on approximately 3,500 new inventions, resulting in over 800 issued patents, over 450 licenses and 40 active spin off companies. Outside investors are part of the team, as we’ve attracted more than $1 billion in equity investments.

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Network at 2016 Medical Innovation Summit

Networking with key principals in your field is critical. Cleveland Clinic’s annual Medical Innovation Summit now attracts more than 1,700 of the most influential people in biotech, law, media, medicine and government. This year’s summit – “Innovating for Healthcare’s Transformation” – takes place October 24-26, 2016, at Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation.

Remember, the marketplace is our friend. You can harness its power to develop your innovations and speed them to patient bedsides at your institution and around the world. Our goal isn’t a quick buck. Our business is saving lives, promoting health, and meeting the long-term challenges of high costs and chronic disease. As my friend Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School says, innovation is the only solution to these and other long term issues faced by American healthcare.

Dr. Cosgrove is CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic.