Steve Szilagyi, our TBE writer is reporting from the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit
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The annual Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit launched on Monday, October 3 with an all-star cast of doctors, innovators, CEOs and media figures. Almost 1,000 movers and shakers from the world of medical innovation registered for the event, whose theme this year is Cardiovascular Technologies.
Delos M. Cosgrove, MD, CEO and president welcomed the attendees at the opening session, held in the vast Bank of America Conference Center in the Intercontinental Hotel in middle of Cleveland Clinic’s main campus.
“Right now, I’m standing about 600 feet from where F. Mason Sones discovered coronary angiography in 1958,” Dr. Cosgrove noted, referring to the legendary Cleveland Clinic cardiologists and his watershed 1958 innovation. Dr. Cosgrove described some of the treatments enabled by coronary angiography, and noted:
“All of this has happened in the wink of an eye. We’re only one generation away from the pioneers of cardiac surgery. We’re less than one generation away from the commercialization of medical discoveries. We’ve come a long way since then. ThisSummitis a measure of our current sophistication. Yet cardiovascular disease hasn’t gone away. It’s still the leading cause of death in the developed world.
“The good news is that the heart and vascular system is giving up its secrets. We have images that would make Mason Sones cry. Every day brings new molecular findings. The scope for discovery has never been greater. The field for innovation is boundless.”
The View from the Trenches
The first speaker was Bruce Lytle, MD, chair of the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Lytle addressed “Cardiovascular Care’s Most Pressing Challenges”, or as he called it, “the view from the trenches.”
He noted that the job of a physician is very simple and practical, and that is “to help patients live longer and by relieving their symptoms to help them live better.”
He observed that cardiovascular innovations have contributed to the seven-to-eight year increase in life spans over the past 20 years. But he worried about the practical application of cardiovascular in every day care.
“The role of doctors is to make things real,” he said. The cost of healthcare is going up, he said, and “unfortunately, innovation has rarely lowered healthcare costs. Most scientific innovations have actually increased costs.” Future cost savings are most likely to come from non-scientific innovation – that is, the more efficient utilization of healthcare resources.
“Many Americans are concerned that healthcare is not a good product,” said Dr. Lytle. “These concerns have some merit. But they have led to increasing regulation.” He expressed concern about government attempts to “put a floor on quality”
“We’ve always got to remember that no innovations are guideline driven. No innovations are at their inception evidence based. Attempts to regulate medical care must not stifle innovation.”
He described some examples of high-tech heart care, including minimally invasive aortic stent-grafting that is being done at Cleveland Clinic to treat aortic aneurysms. He worried that too few surgeons outside of Cleveland Clinic had the expertise to perform high-tech cardiovascular procedures. “Very few physicians are entering cardiovascular surgery, raising the danger of not having enough surgeons to make these technologies become fully reliable.”
After outlining the non-scientific challenges facing healthcare providers, Dr. Lytle returned to the individual doctor “making things real.”
“Physicians function at a different level than healthcare economists,” he said. “The physician’s world is determined by real time and real outcomes and real individuals … We try to understand the larger patient population, but we make our decisions based on the single patients.”
Dr. Lytle concluded his talk with this image. “It’s been a privilege to live at the interface of innovation and patient care.”
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