Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation

Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation

The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation (CFI), an internal consultancy of the Mayo Clinic, is the United States’s largest health care delivery innovation group working within a major academic medical center.

The CFI [1] uses design thinking, an innovation discipline used by many U.S. corporations, to rapidly develop patient-focused health care delivery models that increase the quality and access to health care and decrease its cost.

The CFI’s projects cover the full spectrum of modern clinical and hospital practice while focusing on three main areas – redesigning outpatient practice, transforming community health, and care-at-a-distance medicine.

Based in the Mayo Clinic’s main facility in Rochester, MN,[2] the CFI has more than 50 full-time staff including service designers, project managers and others working to develop health care delivery solutions for Mayo’s Clinic’s 57,000 employees and half a million patients annually in Rochester as well at Mayo Clinic’s branch facilities in Jacksonville, FL [3] and Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ.[4]


History of the CFI

Mayo’s commitment to innovation began in the late 19th century when Drs. William and Charles Mayo founded their medical practice around an innovative concept — the integrated team practice. The Mayo brothers established the approach that is still followed by Mayo Clinic and the CFI today, which is that innovation doesn’t happen by chance but rather requires systematic process, discipline and focus.

Formally established as the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation in 2008, the 50+ member multidisciplinary team is now the largest among a growing number of research and testing centers for new health care delivery concepts at U.S. academic and non-profit medical centers.

A precursor to the Center for Innovation, the SPARC Lab,[5] was created in the Department of Medicine with a staff of two. By 2008, the SPARC Lab had grown to 24 full-time staff and was rechristened as the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation.

In its first three years, the CFI completed more than 100 innovation projects within the Mayo system, ranging from redesigning Mayo’s traditional clinical exam room; to streamlining job descriptions and protocols in a dermatology clinic; to analyzing how hospital care teams hand off patients from one team to another; to supporting a project with a “stroke robot” that enables Mayo physicians to consult with patients from a remote location within seconds of the first possible signs of a stroke.

CFI’s Vision and Mission

Dr. John Noseworthy, the president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, describes the CFI as a “lab for creative thinking” at Mayo.[6] The director of the CFI, Dr. Nicholas LaRusso, says the CFI’s mission is “to transform the experience and delivery of health care. We need a more patient-focused delivery system that creates greater value and better health for the patient. For meaningful change, the medical community must step outside its comfort zone.” [7]

Design Thinking

The guiding discipline used by the CFI is design thinking,[8] an innovation technique used by many U.S. businesses outside of health care to improve customer service and to invent new paradigms of value. The CFI is testing the hypothesis that design thinking, a proven successful innovation discipline in U.S. business and industry, can be successfully applied to health care innovation.[9]

The CFI’s staff is built around a core of graduates from design schools and designers recruited from design firms and service-oriented companies.

The Outpatient Lab

In its early years, the CFI (then the SPARC Lab) developed the Outpatient Lab, where consenting patients were observed in prototypes of newly-designed examination rooms that were altered in size, shape and configuration. These Outpatient Lab studies resulted in a redesign of Mayo Clinic’s basic examination room. In the old room, the exam table was placed in the center of the room, with doctor-patient conversations held at a desk adjacent to the exam table. In the new configuration, doctors and patients chat with each other at a round table in a carpeted room that feels much like a living room, with the examination table, clothes-changing area and medical instruments located in an adjoining room.[10]

The Design Research Studio

At the CFI’s Design Research Studio, designers and project managers collaborate with Mayo physicians, nurses and care team members to brainstorm and prototype solutions to health care delivery problems.[11]

Project Management

In 2009, project managers were added to the CFI staff,[12] partly in recognition that the creative aspect of design thinking sometimes needs a counterbalancing force to keep projects driving towards deadlines, cost and quality control, and defined scope of work.

Here, There and Everywhere

The Center for Innovation projects cluster around three main platforms reflecting a Mayo Clinic strategic vision of “Here, There and Everywhere”: PLATFORMS are 1) Practice Redesign, aimed at reducing outpatient practice costs by 30 percent while enhancing the patient experience and maintaining or improving quality outcomes; 2) Community Health Transformation, aimed at nurturing scalable community health models based on “Triple Aim” [16] goals; and 3) Care-at-a-Distance, to develop web-based, mobile and other digital communication models to extend specialty care to remote sites including underserved areas, patient homes and affiliated practices.

Internal and External Partners

Partnering with people and organizations inside and outside of health care, and inside and outside of Mayo Clinic, is a core principle of the CFI.[13] Among Mayo’s external partners are Best Buy, GE Healthcare, IBM, IDEO, Microsoft, Steelcase, Cisco, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Minnesota, Purdue University, Doblin, Ascension Health, Vital Health and Imaginatik.

Other CFI innovation programs

  • Transform, an annual two-day health care innovation conference featuring high-profile guest speakers.[14]
  • The CoDE Project, an annual award granting funds to Mayo Clinic employees for innovative health care proposals.
  • Launchpad, an online collaboration tool allowing employees across the Mayo Clinic system in Rochester, MN; Scottsdale, AZ; and Jacksonville, Florida to share resources and news and join discussion and work groups.
  • The Innovation Curriculum, a series of lunch-time seminars teaching innovation skills and mindset to Mayo employees at all levels.


External links

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