Josh Polster, MD: There's Nothing a Little Innovation Can't Solve

Voice recognition. Biopsy needles. CT Scan algorithms. Golf clubs. Beard clippings bib… Dr. Josh Polster’s got ideas. A radiologist at Cleveland Clinic since 2004, Polster sees no end to the pipeline of ideas that pop into his mind. And these aren’t back-of-the-napkin inventions either. Polster has a knack for putting deep thought into his innovations, sketching out concepts and taking detailed notes in his various lab books. Combine this work ethic with the commercialization expertise he’s gained by working closely with Cleveland Clinic Innovations over the years - and the fact that he has a long career ahead of him, receiving CCI’s Young Innovator Award in 2012 - and you have a recipe for innovation success.
Polster grew up in Shaker Heights, and has always considered science and innovation fun. After studying philosophy and science at the University of Pennsylvania, he combined his love of science with his desire to make a difference by attending medical school at Case Western Reserve University. While he remembers having ideas as a kid (i.e. an electric ice cream scooper), he remembers his first invention that went from concept to prototype was a new putter that could simplify the overly complex mechanics of a golfer’s stroke. The result was a weighted putter that is swung between the legs like a croquet mallet.
“While almost certainly illegal, I still break it out from time to time on the golf course,” said Polster. “It admittedly gets more laughs than good rolls.” 
But since seeing that concept come to life as a prototype, Polster got the innovation bug. And being in medicine, Polster noticed a wealth of opportunity to make things better for both patients and caregivers.  His first patent was issued for a novel way to apply MRI functionality to CT scans for musculoskeletal exams, which would limit the need for two tests.  The improved CT can detect lesions in the bone marrow that are currently only visible with MRI. While Polster’s inventions scan an array of categories, his desire to streamline and simplify is a common theme in his growing portfolio.

For example, Polster is developing a new invention with Innovations that will use context to improve medical accuracy of the voice recognition software that physicians use when assessing a patient or image. As well as an idea to make the electronic medical record display more relevant and intuitive information at the point-of-care and another idea to apply efficient and optimized viewing of radiological images on a workstation. These are all just the tip of the iceberg.

“While some of the ideas are complex, it is usually pretty simple stuff,” said Polster. “When I notice that I am spending time correcting errors or I feel like a patient’s time is being wasted, I know there is an opportunity for innovation.”
And when that realization hits, Polster is off and running.

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