Why Looking Forward Has Me Looking Back

The Mayo Brothers Funny how a trip to a small city, Lanesboro, Minnesota, started as a sunny Saturday to get away from work, but ended in reflection on my place and premise of work – innovation at the Mayo Clinic. The day started in Lanesboro’s town museum, which is peppered with city history and artifacts. Venturing upstairs the museum mimics a 1920’s house. Sepia toned pictures of spouses, families and military flank the staircase leading up to a few separate rooms – highlighting historical artifacts of the times and treasures of those who live thru them.

Walking to the top landing seeing clouded lace sun pour thru the curtained windows, hearing the stillness of clothes that were once worn and toys once owned, and feeling both the disparity and hope of notebooks and typewriters once used. Seeing things placed in a scene and setting that leaves me feeling somewhat unaccustomed makes me look for something, something familiar. Then my eyes fall upon two familiar faces – William and Charlie Mayo. Not that we have met – but we have crossed paths often, actually every morning on my way into work. Historically knowing the brothers as innovators, entrepreneurs and champions of social good - but on a day-to-day a reminder of the two brass figure that sit beneath Mayo Clinic’s Gonda building. Now it seems a little different than either scenario looking at a table of early Mayo Clinic artifacts, the brothers seem a little more forthcoming and honest. After all, there is something honest about being in a place that is preserved to it’s time period, an honesty that even leaves room for inquiry. Why did things change? What stayed the same?

Appointment book from Lanesboro's town museum Transparency

An appointment book shows the names of patients past. The sudden irk within me 'I shouldn’t be looking at this..' is a direct translation of the present-day HIPAA sensitivity within me. Looking into a Doctor’s records – unheard of probably then and now, but it does leave some room for thought. Can this ‘open book’ mentality be seen as an opportunity space, within other applications? Present day open sourcing, crowd-funding, a social networks have created a heightened level of transparency – but what has benefitted in healthcare? The answer seems to be partnering with individuals in various groups and industries to share key learning and advance innovation together.

( Read more about CFI’s internal and external collaborations )

Classic sign once displayed on Mayo brother's office doorAvailability

A sign in a classic yet clinical font, politely ensuring assistance at the ring of a bell. The sentiment behind the faded sign seems both sincere and comforting. The promise of the person-to-person, patient-to-physician communication and consultation with a simple ‘ding.’ While the term ‘availability’ shouldn’t be seen as a direct metaphor to enough physicians per patient population, the advancement of tele-health and tele- medicine should be. Various initiatives at the Mayo Clinic have launched the availability of real-time consultation with medical professionals in an engaging virtual setting – that is comprehensive of a Mayo Clinic quality experience.

Read an interview with CFI Administrator, Barbara Spurrier on ‘Transformational Health Care Delivery’ )

Historical medical booksKnowledge – Sharing

A bookshelf of information with various editions marking innovations and research in healthcare and medicine. The dog-tagged edges, margin scribbles and worn binds tangible reminders of pages turned and lessons learned. But the information seems to be limited to shelf, bound to the wall. The audible element of conversations had in a lounge, hallway in conversation – not shown, but surely had. Sure, the debate of whether books will be around in years to come surfaces in my mind. But so does the overwhelming notion that information was effectively retained thru kinesthetic learning, learning by doing. Such is seen in Mayo Clinic’s emphasis on the three-shield model (practice, research, and education), emphasizing learning thru ensuring ‘the needs of the patient come first’ within the practice shield.

(Hear stories shared from leading-edge professionals at Transform 2012)

Typewriter keys Impact

A typewriter with the keys not on a board, but as individual pendulums to create words stained onto paper. The scratched and faded keys show the wear of 1920’s research papers put into production, with a fingers bouncing atop the keys. ….Click, click, click, click– slide - ding! Imaging now, when technology seems a lot of more approachable. Typing might be limited to typists but technology is not limited to technologists. Advances in technology and healthcare have allowed people to take ownership over information and share to a larger audience. Allowing information to be shared to a greater audience, and when harnessed appropriately, create an ongoing conversation towards action. Swipe – double tap – share!

( Read about CFI’s platforms focused on diffusing innovation throughout Mayo )

1945 E.K.G machinePortability

A large wood shelf containing a 1945 E.K.G machine, with big and dusty black wires. My eyes settle on the word ‘portable’ feeling the ever-s0 -slight weight of my phone in my pocket. My phone may not be a certified medical device, but in today’s digital health climate – it doesn’t seem to far off. My portable device detecting my heart’s activity could easily be a download away.

( Read about Community Health Transformation’s low-tech / high-impact solution )



Looking back to the Mayo brothers and thinking about before the 20th century and looking forward to the next– the needs of the patient need to come first. Innovation within the realm of healthcare can be seen as grounded in the simplest of things; conversation, access to human contact and information sharing. I am thankful to work within Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation, a shared service within Mayo, looking to diffuse innovation – transforming the experience and delivery of healthcare.