Medtronic's Hospital of the Future akin to birthing an elephant

Tasked several years ago with forming a team to develop Medtronic's ($MDT) prototype Hospital of the Future, Director of IT Innovation Paul Thompson likened the process to the biology of birth--of an elephant, not salmon.

Salmon spawn thousands of eggs at a time, of which only a few will hatch and survive to spawn. For elephants, it's a two-year gestation resulting in a single offspring, albeit one weighing over 100 pounds and capable of running with the herd soon after birth. So it was for the Minnesota medical device giant's concept that involved strategic partnerships and cutting-edge technology to create a healthcare facility that could improve the quality of care, reduce costs and increase productivity.

Ultimately, "we knew we had something that would work in the marketplace," Thompson said in his keynote speech this week at the MedCity CONVERGE innovation conference in Philadelphia, PA.

The company's Hospital of the Future uses integrated technology-based solutions such as automated inventory management, interactive educational materials, integrated services through its Digital Command Center, and remote consulting through high-definition video-conferencing. Medtronic has four Hospital of the Future centers globally--in the U.S, China, Switzerland and Ireland--that allow customers and outside experts a chance to provide feedback and additional collaboration.

Thompson said his team is also working on building a Clinic of the Future and designing what a Home of the Future would look like from a healthcare-support perspective. 

Originally conceived as a project to help reduce the burden on field sales reps whose access to hospitals and device implant events were being reduced because of patient privacy and security laws, the project quickly morphed into one that served the needs of healthcare centers that were about to undergo massive change, not just from leaps in technology but also from the passage of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. and overall price pressures globally.

There was also pressure on Thompson and his team internally over the years to drop the project. It was even suggested, he said, that working on the concept would ruin his career. Like the elephant, he and his team persisted.

"Now with healthcare reform in the U.S., the marketplace is changing enough that the concepts of Hospital of the Future that we've been talking about for four or 5 years are now becoming obvious to a lot of those middle managers and even some of the top leadership to say 'we have to move on this very quickly if we want some way to sustain what's happening to our devices as they slip slowly to more of a commodity type status,'" Thompson said.

In the end, he said, investing in and building something like Hospital of the Future builds the reputation of the company.

- watch Thompson's presentation

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