Industry News


Nobody Does It Better: Mayo Clinic CEO Discusses Innovation and System Transformation

Posted:  March 20, 2017
David W. Johnson, Author in Residence

On March 8, Dr. John Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic’s CEO, stopped by MATTER for a “fireside chat” in front of an overflow audience. Dr. James Madara, the American Medical Association’s CEO and MATTER board member, joined Noseworthy on stage for a lively exploration of healthcare innovation and transformation.


Mayo Clinic is the world leader in complex disease diagnosis and treatment. People from around the world and all 50 states trust Mayo doctors with their lives. Mayo’s multi-disciplinary teams, not individual physicians, drive medical decision-making and deliver exceptional patient experiences.

Since its 1864 founding, physician-CEOs have led Mayo and built a cohesive culture that does not tolerate prima donnas. Salaried physicians and aligned staff share information, engage patients, and collaborate fully. Always putting patients first is the secret sauce that energizes and shapes Mayo’s clinical care, research, and business development.

Examples of clinical excellence and innovation abound:

  • 18% of Mayo surgeries have two surgeons operating simultaneously on patients. This reduces the treatment burden on patients, leads to better outcomes, and is more efficient. All hospitals should do this, but few do.
  • In 2016, Mayo conducted its first-ever face transplant in a 56-hour operation. The team conducting the transplant rehearsed the complicated surgery over the course of 50 Saturdays in the 3.5 years leading up to the surgery.
  • Mayo physicians have conducted over 450 Whipple procedures – the most complex surgery a general surgeon will do – laparoscopically (through two small incisions).
  • Easier, earlier disease diagnosis is a lifesaver. In partnership with ExactScience, Mayo researchers have developed a simple stool test to detect colon cancer. They also are close to developing a blood test to detect lung cancer.

Partnership between bio-medical engineers and clinicians drives Mayo’s relentless process improvement. A request for three new cardiology operating suites triggered a full review of Mayo’s procedures for cardiac surgeries. The initiative created enough incremental capacity to hire three new cardiac surgeons without building any new ORs.

Mayo Noseworthy Madara AMAIn response to a question regarding the “sluggishness” of physicians to embrace innovation, Noseworthy recommended engaging physicians with data. Madara noted that physicians spend two hours doing data entry and compliance for every hour with patients. This generates both frustration and burnout. Innovation communities, like MATTER, succeed when they enable physicians to engage with patients, practice efficiently, and deliver better outcomes.

Despite their focus at the pinnacle of the care pyramid, both Noseworthy and Madara stressed the need for better public health education and literacy. Metabolic syndromes cause most cancers and heart disease.

Reversing the spread of diabetes is of paramount importance throughout the world. Half of China’s adult population is pre-diabetic. The economic consequences of treating chronic disease are catastrophic. Promoting constructive lifestyle change is “the biggest opportunity in developed countries,” Noseworthy observed.

In this sense, Noseworthy ended the fireside chat where he began, embracing the necessity of innovation in transforming healthcare. Addressing MATTER entrepreneurs in the audience, Noseworthy proclaimed, “Healthcare’s future is in this room!”

Watch the entire event here.