Cleveland's the site for Innovation Center

With a distinct focus on interoperability, the HIMSS Innovation Center will open in Cleveland in October.

Between the innovation center itself and its accompanying exhibition floor, the complex will occupy a total of 25,000 square feet on the fourth level – the entire top floor – of the Global Center for Health Innovation, which will house other big-name healthcare leaders and charter tenants, among them Cleveland Clinic, GE Healthcare, Johnson Controls, University Hospitals and Philips Healthcare. HIMSS has plans to double the size of the exhibition space by 2016.

The $465 million Global Center for Innovation and newly refurbished convention center is part of a 1 million square-foot campus in the heart of downtown Cleveland.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald announced that HIMSS would be an anchor tenant at the Cleveland center during his annual State of the County address at the City Club in downtown Cleveland on Feb 19.

HIMSS' new center will be home to the Interoperability Showcase, a popular highlight of the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition. In Cleveland, the Interoperability Showcase will demonstrate and test multiple vendor products, day in and day out.

"We’re going to be doing it all the time, not just a few days during the conference," said HIMSS President and CEO H. Stephen Lieber. "That introduces new things you can do." It will enable HIMSS to provide much better ongoing information about how products work with one another, he said.

The interoperability showcase will take up about two-thirds of the exhibit space, Lieber said. The second area of the floor will be dedicated to exhibits that are self-guided and interactive, and a smaller third area will be reserved for executive suites.

As Lieber sees it, the HIMSS Innovation Center will become a worldwide hub for health and health IT testing, demonstration, exhibitions and consumer products, including the latest breakthroughs in mobile health devices and distance medicine technology, small conferences and changing themes.

The idea, he noted, is to engage.

"We’ve got to reach more than IT folks,” said Lieber, who leads an organization of 52,000 healthcare IT professionals. “Getting to others – that is our strategic challenge." By also drawing in department heads, medical specialty organizations, healthcare management groups and others, HIMSS, whose tagline is “cause-based, not-for-profit," has a better chance of effecting change, of "broadening the discussion, adding more people to the conversation" Lieber said.

The sentiment echoes what Lieber said two years ago when HIMSS had plans to anchor a similar project in Nashville.

"The concept here is that it gives us the ability to reach an audience we wouldn't ordinarily reach," Lieber commented back in 2010. And that has not changed, he added.

"It’s a very comparable concept," Lieber said. "The biggest difference is location, not concept."

HIMSS is ready for the October opening in Cleveland, Lieber said. The organization has planned for a launch of this type since 2010 when it announced plans to anchor the Nashville Medical Trade Center, which was slated to open in early 2013. HIMSS plans shifted to Cleveland when developers could not make a go of the Nashville project. Unable to secure a critical mass of signed long-term leases, the Nashville developers abandoned their plans in October 2012. Cleveland officials had already contacted Lieber.

Lieber and his team had considered three options for the HIMSS Innovation Center at the start – Nashville, Cleveland and New York. Back in 2010, Nashville seemed most aligned with HIMSS goals and Cleveland less focused on technology and innovation than it is today, Lieber explained. Then there was no Global Center for Health Innovation in Cleveland. The effort was called the Cleveland Medical Mart, and it had its critics. They included the developers of Nashville’s center who told the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in 2011 that the Cleveland developers had nothing but a list of companies from the region with non-binding letters of intent.

"Clevland has a bigger challenge establishing itself as a destination for a convention center and trade show," Lieber said. "It’s not in rotation yet like other cities."

However, the presence of the Cleveland Clinic and the completely refurbished state-of the art convention center will go a long way in attracting business, he suggested. "Then throw in the Global Center for Health Innovation, now you’ve got a real differentiator. The combination really creates a strong draw."

Cleveland Clinic will open the downtown facility Oct. 12, and conduct its internationally recognized Medical Innovation Summit at the center Oct. 14-16. This year, the event, which is expected to draw 1,100 participants, will focus on obesity and diabetes.

MedTech Media is a division of HIMSS Media, part of HIMSS.

Concept drawing courtesy of the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center.