Center for Innovation - Inspiring Innovation In Healthcare - Transform - Mayo Clinic

A Little History of CFI (Center For Innovation)

Post Written By Philip Kersten

Inspiring Innovation Throughout The Healthcare Industry

Starting from a brainstorm in 2001 that, in the words of Nicholas LaRusso, “Began with a 12-pack of Guinness at Michael Brennan’s house,” the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation has come a long way in its short history. Both Nicholas LaRusso, M.D. and Michael Brennan, M.D. wondered, after their many years of service in the medical field, if improvements could be made regarding the relationship between the provider and the patient. Having seen the great strides made by scientists in the areas of treating and preventing disease in the latter half of the twentieth century--and seeing the unchanged doctor-patient interactions--they saw potential for a new breed of innovation and change.

In 2002, LaRusso oversaw the creation of a pilot program known as SPARC. Beginning with only two full-time employees, SPARC started exploring new designs for interaction between healthcare providers and patients. Founded on a philosophy of “Think big, start small, move fast” this group was different from anything that had previously existed. Overcoming the challenges of paving the way for innovation, SPARC broke down barriers between physicians and designers, gaining a reputation for not only fostering innovation, but also for inspiring it. After five years, SPARC had garnered such a reputation that a discussion began for an institution-wide initiative for innovation. This meant the creation of a dedicated group of dozens of designers working with and among physicians, nurses, technicians, and Mayo employees from all lines of work to research and develop new means of healthcare provision. SPARC--which had been the “Flagship” of innovation--was incorporated into this new system, which would be called the Center for Innovation (CFI).

Fittingly, CFI was announced in 2007 at the first Transform Symposium, which the Mayo Clinic now hosts annually to cultivate and share innovative ideas in medicine. Less than a year later, in June of 2008, CFI was fully operational. Based on five platforms, the work of CFI is intended to improve patient wellness and experience, while ensuring that the care offered by the Mayo Clinic is both uniquely extraordinary and memorably positive. In addition to these goals, CFI is based on continuing the tradition of inspiring innovation throughout the industry.

Over the past few years, CFI has embodied LaRusso’s vision of an “initiative that is public, visible, and embedded in the organization.” Regularly hosting visits and tours for professionals from around the world, the CFI has earned a reputation for existing on the cutting edge of a changing medical field. The initiative that started as a brainstorm has become a beacon of innovation, lighting a path for those even outside of the Mayo system who seek to change the way they provide healthcare for the sake of improving patient outcomes, efficiency, and patient experience.

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