Archive for March, 2009

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation Offers Novel Approach to Dramatically Improving the Patient Experience

March 2, 2009
M. Bridget Duffy, MD, Chief Experience Officer, from the Office of Patient Experience, speaks with staff members

M. Bridget Duffy, MD, Chief Experience Officer, from the Office of Patient Experience, speaks with staff members

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation is always on the cutting edge of
breakthrough medical treatments.  However, the organization is also at the
forefront of meeting the human needs of patients.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation created the Office of Patient Experience
(OPE), whose mission is to “create an environment that delivers superior
clinical care while valuing human-to-human interactions as a critical
component of healing.”

Through OPE, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation main campus and several
system hospitals developed councils, which focus on empowering
patients and families to take an active role in their healthcare
experience. The councils also serve as an advisory resource for employees,
staff and administration.

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has 26 institutes that group multiple
specialties together to provide collaborative, patient-centered care.
Each institute designates a doctor and nurse to be part of the OPE
Council.  It is important that every segment of the system be represented.

Throughout the system, the councils work to impact four dimensions of the
patient experience (organizational culture dimension, clinical dimension,
emotional dimension and physical environment dimension).

There are many projects in each dimension.  Here are some examples:

Cultural/Staff and Employee Engagement Dimension
In order to deliver excellent clinical care and create meaningful patient
experiences, employees need to feel they are having a significant impact.
The councils help define, implement and communicate activities that
specifically enhance the employee experience, which in turn, positively
effects the patient
experience.  This includes work-life balance activities, such as
complimentary memberships to gyms and weight loss programs.

Clinical Dimension
Patients often feel confused and overwhelmed within the healthcare system.
The OPE is currently piloting a Health Navigator program that will assist
patients in understanding an often complex healthcare system.  The
dictionary defines “Navigation” as the process of plotting or directing
the course of a vessel.  In this case, we talking about helping patients
find direction through the healthcare system.

Emotional Dimension
Excluding wellness checks, when patients enter the healthcare system,
there is something wrong.  The condition they are experiencing can lead to
feelings of anxiety and / or depression. A program called Healing
Solutions focuses on improving the patient experience by promoting
positive activities.  An example of this program is offering massotherapy
to reduce stress.

The dimension also helps employees.  For example, if a healthcare
professional is devastated by the loss of a patient they had grown very
fond of, a “Code Lavender” can be pulled.  In this way, the employee can
be comforted by one or more people from Healing Solutions.  They also have
the option of wearing a lavender bracelet so other people would know they
are gong through a difficult time and offer their support.

Physical Environment Dimension
This area focuses on the physical environment to provide comfort and
support for patients.  This includes artwork throughout the system.
Music and dance performances also play a role in creating a therapeutic

I recently watched a TV medical drama and one doctor on the show said, “We
have a breast cancer in room 110, a heart murmur in room 118.”  Patients
are not simply “disease states.”  This type of conversation would never be
at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation who value the entire patient and this
is exemplified through the Office of Patient Experience.

For more information about the Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s Office of
Patient Experience, please contact: 216.445.5230 or


Edward Leigh, MA, is the Founder and Director of the Center for Healthcare Communication.  For more information about his high-impact communication skills programs, visit or call: or call 1-800-677-3256