Monday, January 12, 2015

Collaboration and Convergence: The Future of Medical Innovation

An interview with
Gary Fingerhut
Executive Director
Cleveland Clinic Innovations

As the Executive Director at Cleveland Clinic Innovations, Gary Fingerhut leads a team of professionals focused on commercializing technologies conceived by Cleveland Clinic Caregivers that make a real difference in improving patient care.

Frost & Sullivan recently spoke with Gary about some of the projects Cleveland Clinic Innovations is working on, as well as how collaborating across companies and industries is ultimately leading to better care. Gary will also join us to share his expertise at the 20th Anniversary Medical Technologies 2015: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, March 18-20, 2015, in San Diego.

First, give us a little background on what Cleveland Clinic Innovations does.

Our main objectives include commercialization and technology transfer. So if you’re familiar with a typical tech transfer office, we take that to the next level and add commercialization by creating over 71 spin-off companies to date. We also have our Global Healthcare Innovation Alliance where we outsource our capabilities of commercialization and tech transfer to other organizations.

Another significant area of focus is the Medical Innovation Summit, which is our annual summit held in Cleveland with typically around 1700 global thought leaders in the area of healthcare innovation. This includes leaders such as investors, clinicians, alliances and corporate partnerships. Lastly, we have our Global Cardiovascular Innovation Center and NCAI, our NIH Center for Accelerated Innovation.

In each of our areas, we have three very simple business imperatives for why we do this. First, we want to commercialize or translate the technologies developed at the Cleveland Clinic and our Global Healthcare Innovation Alliance to the rest of the world to provide better patient care. Second, we’re a service organization, so we’re all about delivering exceptional inventor satisfaction and providing caregivers and partners with a solid and productive experience of commercialization. Then finally of course, we want to optimize some kind of financial return, so we can continue to reinvest and do more product development.

What are some of the most exciting things you’re working on?

Right now, we’re focused on four key areas, and we have a very large portfolio in each of these. The first is healthcare IT, which is growing exponentially. This includes any type of software application, digital health, and, though I hate to use the buzz word, Big Data, including a lot of clinical decision support and personalized medicine opportunities. There are also all of the digital apps in wellness arena.

The second area is devices, through our medical device incubator. About 60% of what we do is in the device space. The third is therapeutics and diagnostics. Those are usually longer-term innovations as we have a world-renowned research facility here and we get a lot of tremendous ideas from our Learner Research team.

Then our fourth area, which is relatively new from a commercialization perspective, is our delivery solutions group. That includes more process-oriented technologies. There’s a lot going on in the areas of bundled payments, reimbursement, care paths, and opportunities that enable us to do more with less.

You mentioned data in health IT. What are some of the roles data is playing in healthcare?

From an innovation perspective, we see a lot going on in the area of biometrics, wearables, and, as I mentioned, clinical decision support systems. All of this is leading into more personalized medicine and family medicine, where you’re managing the family tree and using hereditary and genomic data. The technologies are putting it all together to create a dashboard, not necessarily for a patient, but for a human, so we can do some predictive analysis prior to being a patient.

An example is one of our spin-offs, Explorys, which is our most successful Big Data venture.

There’s lot of discussion around trying to improve patient engagement and focus more on preventive care. What are some ways technology is helping move healthcare in that direction?

We have a tremendous amount of technologies in the patient engagement space. I’ll focus on one area, which is a product we have called MyFamily. It’s integrated with the EMR and tracks the patient’s family history around disease collection. That allows us to do risk stratification and bring it right to the point of care. It’s a clever technology that basically creates an awareness of the needs of the patient so the physician and the patient can see it and reach a higher quality of care. It’s very similar to what you’re hearing around, to use another buzz phrase, “doing more with less.” It allows you to collect data, increases patient engagement, and helps with identifying at-risk patients. MyFamily is a hot digital product that we’re really excited about.

Another thing we hear a lot about is the idea of convergence, where all the different areas of health and wellness are coming together. 

That’s very well in line with our strategy and processes which we refined in January 2014. We’re now taking more of a portfolio approach to managing these technologies. Historically, a tech transfer office would create a royalty-bearing license or spin off a new company around a specific technology. We now take this portfolio approach where our incubator directors align multiple technologies and hold on to them longer to de-risk them while increasing the total portfolio value. By combining multiple technologies, not only from the Cleveland Clinic but from all of our Global Healthcare Innovation Alliance partners, we’re building a much stronger portfolio.

We align those as well as with our partners, which include Parker Hannifin, Lubrizol, NASA, IBM, and others. We can bring together the intellectual property; capital, both human and financial, while mutually translating these at a higher value and provide better patient care.

What is the role collaboration plays in what Cleveland Clinic Innovations does?

We’re aligned to be the best partner in healthcare. That’s one of our goals. We’ve aligned ourselves with leaders in multiple industries, some of which you would not expect to be in the healthcare space. One example is Parker Hannifin’s fluid dynamics group. We’ve aligned with them because after all, it’s not unlike the human body. We’re able to take areas of their intellectual property that haven’t been applied to healthcare and, vice-versa, find areas of healthcare where they can take advantage in their other verticals.

We’ve done this in multiple areas. We’re also aligned with telecom companies that bring components that they have from an infrastructure perspective – they may have, say, a HIPAA-compliant cloud – that we can then leverage in healthcare. We also have our relationship with IBM in the Watson initiative, where were we take IBM Watson to medical school and teach Watson how to read the EMR. These are examples of creating new relationships that haven’t been developed in the past and embedding them in technologies that can eventually go to the bedside.

It’s really a tremendous opportunity; providing technologies to enable better patient care and make a difference in the world. It’s really a very exciting time for Cleveland Clinic Innovations.

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