The Future of Medical Innovation and Commercialization

Innovation has been a driving force behind health care from the beginning, yet with the U.S. health care system in the midst of an unprecedented transformation and a focus on lowering costs, many are asking, “What will become of innovation?”

The answer to that question is also a potential solution for hospitals facing financial pressures – a solution that has the power to improve patient care as well.

A growing number of hospitals are looking to develop a new revenue stream through the commercialization of medical innovations. They’re not doing it alone.

Just as Cleveland Clinic collaborates with other health systems on cardiovascular or cancer care, Cleveland Clinic Innovations has formed a national Innovation Alliance network to collaborate on the commercialization of medical innovations.

Cleveland Clinic Innovations, the corporate venturing arm of Cleveland Clinic, has a track record of converting and commercializing medical expertise, creating 55 spin-off companies and more than 300 licensed technologies that began as doctors and researchers’ ideas. Those companies have received nearly $700 million in equity investment.

The alliance forms collaborations with health systems to help bring ideas to market more rapidly. Individually, providers struggle to find the best way to properly utilize their budgets and allocate their limited resources. Collectively, through the Alliance structure, organizations can leverage the experience and expertise of their partners to streamline the process of getting life-saving technologies to patients.

In the past 18 months, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, ProMedica, the University of Notre Dame, and MedStar Health have all entered collaborative business relationships with Cleveland Clinic. They join a network focused on identifying and executing joint development and commercialization opportunities for medical innovations. In each case, at least one Cleveland Clinic Innovations senior commercialization officer is located at each organization to bring new medical innovations to patients.

This is a harbinger of change – no longer do health systems need to do it alone. Just as it no longer makes sense for each hospital to provide care in every service line, not every hospital has to build a commercialization arm to bring its inventors’ technologies to market.

We believe our Alliance program is a unique and potentially major new development in U.S. healthcare. Physician inventors have been around as long as medicine. The four founders of Cleveland Clinic knew that when they made innovation one of their cornerstones more than 90 years ago.

Patient-centered medical technologies will continue to improve the quality of care, reduce costs and provide a new revenue stream for hospitals. As health systems adapt to the enormous changes underway, innovation and extra-regional collaboration will be critical to ensuring that patients have access to the best and most effective technologies.

Chris Coburn has been the Executive Director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, Cleveland Clinic’s corporate venturing arm, since it was established in 2000. This year, Innovations was recognized by Global Corporate Venturing as one of the world’s Top 4 health corporate venturing organizations.

4 replies »

  1. There’s a fairly large body of health economics research showing that medical innovation is a large driver of cost. This idea that innovation can improve quality, reduce costs, and create new revenue streams for hospitals is the latest fad of the genre called the “just-so story.”

    Rettig, Richard A.(2007), “Medical Innovation Duels Cost Containment,” Health Affairs (Summer 1994): 15.

    Callahan, Daniel. Taming the Beloved Beast: Why Medical Technology Costs are Destroying Our Health Care System (Princeton University Press, August 2009).

    Kaiser Family Foundation (2007) “How Changes in Medical Technology Affect Health Care Costs,” March.

  2. Medical “innovations” do not bettter quality make. The robot is a perfect example. Let’s not confuse technological innovation with actual progress. New technologies are expensive, and most provide small increases in quality at most.

  3. Chris, what are your thoughts about Vinod Khosla from his self-titled venture fund that ‘technology will replace 80% of doctors’? Are the technologies the Clinic is working on designed to streamline or automate care, or are they more directed towards broadening the types of services that can be provided cost effectively?

  4. Chris –

    My curiosity is piqued. Can you tell us a little more about the work you do at the clinic. What are the criteria you use for weighing potential investments? Is there a way for aspiring entrepreneurs to get their ideas in front of you online?

    / j