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Anil Jain came to Cleveland Clinic right out of medical school in 1998, just as we were pioneering a new approach to medical record keeping—the electronic medical record or EMR, which eliminated cumbersome paper files, reduced medical errors, and allowed doctors to enter and retrieve patient data at the touch of a keyboard.

A dedicated physician, Dr. Jain is also a self-described health information technology (HIT) “nut.” He perceived that the EMR could be a fount of knowledge for medical researchers, with its millions of patient data points, trackable across time and robust with information on the inception, progress, and treatment of every possible disease condition.

But the information was locked behind firewalls, buried in incompatible systems, and protected by laws ensuring patient privacy. Dr. Jain knew what was needed—a tool to liberate the data in the EMR and make it available to the research community. He took time from his patient care schedule to work on the problem. Through trial and error, he developed a search engine, which he called e-Research. This Googlelike application allowed researchers to scour hundreds of thousands of patient records and pinpoint relevant data sets in seconds.

What made Dr. Jain’s search engine particularly valuable was that he’d found a way to strip the records of all patient names and other identifying characteristics. This cloaking feature would make it possible for other hospitals and medical centers to open up their EMRs without fear of compromising patient security, exponentially increasing the value to researchers.

Dr. Jain had invented an exciting new HIT product that could aid researchers, help patients, generate income for Cleveland Clinic, and potentially emerge as a new company boosting the regional economy.

How did he move this valuable and tested idea to the marketplace? How did it get a patent? How did it raise capital and attract partners? Dr. Jain found the assistance he needed right at Cleveland Clinic Innovations (CCI), our experienced, well-organized, and mission-driven in-house technology development, commercialization, and corporate venturing unit. Since 2004, CCI has executed some 600 licenses for innovations and spun off 70-plus companies, attracting nearly a billion dollars in investment capital.

CCI introduced Dr. Jain to two experienced digital entrepreneurs who were looking for a new challenge in the health sphere. They licensed his application and scaled it up around a new architecture that could handle even more data from more sources. They called their company Explorys. CCI provided office space as well as legal, accounting, and marketing assistance for a stake in the emerging enterprise.

Today, Explorys is an enormous version of Dr. Jain’s original search engine. Its massive server farms hold a clinical data set of more than 50 million lives. The company grew from 2 to 150 employees. The tool is now used by more than two dozen healthcare systems and nearly 400 hospitals to identify patterns in disease incidence, treatment, and outcome.

In 2015, Explorys was acquired by IBM to be integrated into IBM Watson Health, a global big data project whose objective is to transform medicine, medical education, and medical spending for the twenty-first century. It’s an illustration of Cleveland Clinic innovation at its best—putting ideas to work.

Since its founding in 1921, Cleveland Clinic has contributed some of the most important techniques and technologies advancing medical science. So it’s not surprising that we’ve also pioneered the modern approach to innovation. Cleveland Clinic was at the vanguard among academic institutions who embraced the commercialization of intellectual property (IP). We leveraged our intellectual capacity for discovery and honed methodologies for technology development. The result was that Cleveland Clinic best processes for technology transfer have become best practices in medical innovation that now reach beyond just healthcare and its adjacent sectors to guide the practice innovation across all domains.

As chief innovation officer of Cleveland Clinic, I’ve had a front-row seat and a modest hand in developing one of the world’s foremost innovation engines and am inspired to open the door to its home base each day. I’ve tasted both the fruits and disappointments that accompany innovation, while also being the beneficiary of its magic to heal. I’ve touched or been touched by almost every facet of innovation. I’ve benefited from my pursuit of creative ideas and wish to share how to derive success and significance from solving problems.

This book was expressly designed for the engaged practitioner of innovation—or those who aspire to achieve expertise and leadership in its practice. Innovation occurs best at the intersection of knowledge domains and is catalyzed by collaboration. Reducing transcendent ideas to practice takes disciplined processes and is a metrics-driven pursuit. I seek to share the key ingredients and enablers that have distinguished CCI. Some terms, ideas, concepts, theories, organizations, and institutions may not be discussed at great length at first mention, but in these cases, brief introductory definitions and descriptions will be provided.

I’m transparent about the challenges along the way and also emphasize the importance of teamwork. Innovation is not a linear journey, and neither is developing a sustainable engine to capture it. Making innovation a sustainable priority on the individual and institutional level is just as much about the why as the how. If the fundamental reasons an individual or organization innovates are aligned with mission, even the most complex organization can operate its innovation engine efficiently and successfully.

This is not just a book; it’s simultaneously a passport and an invitation. It’s your passport to Cleveland Clinic’s journey to primacy in pursuit of innovation excellence. It contains the practical instruments we use every day and the mechanisms to reach out to us for assistance.

This is also an invitation to join a movement. Whether or not you’re involved in healthcare, you can become a practitioner of mission-driven innovation. The journey begins with the motivation behind why you’re in business, then embraces disciplined processes that gestate creative ideas to the marketplace. This is meant to be an inspiring playbook for assessing and executing the operational and cultural elements that define the successful high-innovation organization.

The Cleveland Clinic way is to be the best partner in modern healthcare. It starts with our own patients and caregivers and extends to our professional and residential communities and the world beyond.

There’s no higher calling than improving and extending human life. This is the story of the individuals and institution that pioneered mission-driven innovation and achieved a balance between doing good and doing well. Adopt these principles, identify your industry’s higher calling, and join the creative community that puts ideas to work. Accept the innovation challenge!

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