Mayo leader calls for innovation in health care

By Jeff Hansel

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation has a full lineup of ideas about how to provide health care.

But don’t be surprised if a lot of those ideas go belly up.

"Health care has fallen behind in its ability to innovate," said medical director Dr. Nick LaRusso.


Mayo wants to speed the rate of innovation and change the system so providers get paid based on the value of services.

To move health care ahead, he said, it’s time to take risks and allow failure. A state of "transformative innovation" has resulted in advances such as ATMs, which eliminated the need to go to a bank for cash, and cell phones, which got rid of phone cords.

"We need to conceive of a 21st century Mayo model of care that is available to anyone," LaRusso told more than 300 people at an anniversary celebration Monday.

That means taking an accepted model of care, such as when Mayo doctors answer telephone inquiries from doctors in other states, and modernizing to include a way to see X-rays and patient information.

Examples include patients consulting with a specialist while sitting in their doctor’s office in their community, using "remote monitoring" of health status and GE’s "quiet care," which sets off an alarm if a person’s normal pattern is interrupted.

Collaborations with businesses like GE Healthcare, Intel, Steelcase, Ideo, IBM and Cisco are essential to the transformation process, said senior administrator Barbara Spurrier.

"It’s such an exciting time to be in health care," she said.

Mayo researchers with specialties ranging from anthropology to engineering identify opportunities and find ways to transform health services as a result.


Instead of large-scale experiments, the innovation center brings people together to identify problems, find solutions and test them quickly. It’s a new form of continuous improvement in the health care environment intended to open the doors of Mayo to patients who might be in Rochester, Florida or Dubai.

After just a year of operation, the innovation center, based in the Gonda Building in Rochester, is already cranking out ideas.

"There have never been better opportunities than there are now by changing how we deliver care," LaRusso said.

Next will be a shift at Mayo to promote health rather than treat illness.

"We need each of you to join us on your innovation journey. We hope you’ll start this afternoon," LaRusso said.

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