Nav Search

Inside American College of Cardiology’s ‘All-Hands-on-Deck’ Approach to Innovation

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, American College of Cardiology

Innovation is what moves us forward and keeps us relevant in a changing world. Steve Jobs, the late cofounder, chair and CEO of Apple said it best when he noted that “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

At the American College of Cardiology, innovation has made the College what it is today: a vibrant, professional home for nearly 50,000 cardiovascular professionals around the world. Over the last 65 years, the College has been credited for its state-of-the-art educational programs and products, as well as its development of clinical guidelines, quality improvement programs and suite of clinical data registries—all of which help members stay on top of the latest research and ensure patients are receiving the best, most appropriate care.

On a more macro level, the field of cardiovascular medicine as a whole has a stunning record of successful innovation over many decades, from the population health insights of the Framingham Heart Study, to the introduction of statins, to the increasing rigor and sophistication of clinical trials, to the relentless improvements in interventional cardiology.  These have all led to dramatic reductions in death from cardiovascular disease.

Yet, the ACC recognizes that continuing to build upon and foster this culture of innovation is critical as we head into the future—especially given that the number of patients affected with cardiovascular disease and related risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol, threatens to overwhelm health care delivery systems in the U.S. and around the world. We cannot hope to confront the global epidemic of non-communicable diseases without an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to innovation. We must be creative, problem-solving visionaries and leaders. We must think outside of the box, test and retest new hypotheses, ask questions, not fear failure and be comfortable with the unknown.

What does this look like practically? The continued work in real-world clinical data—work that began with the ACC’s NCDR clinical data registries more than 15 years ago—will continue to drive stunning new insights into the care of heart disease and its co-morbidities. While the term “Big Data” is often misused, health care truly does have massive data sets that we can leverage to identify gaps in care, derive new clinical insights and drive quality improvement.

Two recent studies published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in November 2014 based on data from the ACC’s outpatient PINNACLE Registry are great examples of this.  Both studies provided unique and timely insights into the potential impacts of the new ACC/AHA cholesterol guidelines, as well as new recommendations for the management of hypertension.  ACC quality improvement programs like the D2B Alliance and Hospital to Home are also driving quality improvement by leveraging registry data to show improved adherence to meeting guideline recommended door-to-balloon care, as well as reducing unnecessary hospital readmissions, respectively. Moving forward, the ACC’s partnership around the Diabetes Collaborative Registry is designed to track and improve the quality of diabetes and metabolic care across the primary care and specialty care continuum.

Exploring new partnerships and unique coalitions that can lead to improvements in care is critical. Examples of these novel partnerships include med-tech incubators, retail health care providers, wearable and mobile biometric sensor developers, consumer product manufacturers and innovative health care systems. The College feels strongly that points of intersection between these partnerships has the potential to yield some of the most profound and unexpected advances in patient care, particularly when it comes to effectively aligning resources to improve patient outcomes and reduce health care costs.

The ACC recently demonstrated its commitment to innovation by creating a new division, solely devoted to creating a college-wide culture that embraces innovation, pursues change and tolerates risk. The new division is charged with building partnerships, like our current one with 1776, which can lead to new and groundbreaking ways to transform cardiovascular care and improve not only heart health, but health care delivery as a whole.

*The ACC is seeking two creative and imaginative people to join its Innovation team. If you enjoy debating new ideas and are inspired by the passion and vision of others, contact me at

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, American College of Cardiology

Prior to joining the ACC in 2008, Fitzpatrick was vice president of business development with Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, part of Wolters Kluwer Health. He served as president for professional…