Pioneering Customer Experience in Healthcare at Cleveland Clinic

Being empathetic and engaged are core parts of the patient and caregiver experience at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Adrienne Boissy, a neurologist and the leader of the patient, caregiver, and family experience at Cleveland Clinic, shares the path to embedding customer experience into a healthcare organization. We talk about the importance of putting patients first, and what it takes to sustain the philosophy, mindset, and operational priorities to keep this work going.

Improving The Patient Experience is An Ongoing Commitment

When Dr. Boissy became the Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic Health System, the organization had already been committed to developing the patient journey for about a decade. But, as she goes on to tell me, there’s always work that needs to be done when it comes to improving the patient experience. When Dr. Boissy took on this role, the first thing she did was assess the work that needed to be done and how she could make it her own. 

After assessing the work, Dr. Boissy made the following improvements to the patient experience:

  • Roll out online ratings for physicians. This initiative had to be discussed internally to be sure all physicians were informed. Internally, Dr. Boissy and her team crafted supportive messaging, making the case for why online ratings were important to the patient experience. 
  • Understand your team and build bridges to make them a functional unit. In order for teams to be fully functional, they need to feel valued and cared for. Spend time watering and fostering their growth.
  • Get your team aligned around a singular vision. For Dr. Boissy, the teams needed to be aligned around their roles to reduce suffering and enhance relationships.

Strategize Around Sustaining Your CX Work

Pioneering Customer Experience in Healthcare at Cleveland ClinicDr. Boissy and her Cleveland Clinic team have rolled out great programs around service and communications that are impactful for patients and caregivers, but strategy around sustainment was a huge opportunity for increasing change. She did not want to fall into the trap of believing their program was the best and that there wouldn’t be a need to change it in 5 years. Dr. Boissy and her team had to build a strategy around sustaining the work that they were doing. 

Sustainment Strategy:

  • Think about driving new innovation every day.
  • Reinforce accountability to the individual level. Communication skill behavior change happens when you recognize there’s a blind spot which has been brought to the forefront because of transparency. Drive transparency around peer performance and develop customized programs to improve your staff’s skills.
  • Drive transparency. For Dr. Boissy, this meant translating the patient satisfaction score feedback to the front desk, which never happened before. When people realize they’re perceived differently than they think, you’re able to drive change.
  • Sustain good patient service. Dr. Boissy and her team thought a lot about how to get more creative around patient storytelling. They had many conversations about training and ongoing service, how could they be sure they were being empathetic?
  • Use a service recovery model. It’s extremely important to put things back together after something was done to make the patient uncomfortable. Dr. Boissy and her team decided that they would need to respond with heart: hear the concern, empathize with the concern, apologize, respond (what are you going to do about it), thanking the patient. Service recovery acknowledges that we’re all human beings and sometimes things go wrong. What’s the most important is how we take care of it.

Operationalize the Patient Experience

When it comes to the patient and caregiver experience, Dr. Boissy works with the C-Suite so that they’re united in their understanding of the work, allowing them to be unified in their decision making. This is important for making the work successful as patient experience becomes operationalized.

Dr. Boissy shares how she’s been able to improve the caregiver experience in three different areas: 

  • “The Pause.” This was such a touching implementation to hear about. Dr. Boissy described how the end of life is a powerful moment in someone’s journey and is an occurrence they deal with often. “The Pause” is a literal pause with some scripted language to use when someone passes. She explains how everyone gathers around the patient to deliver the words so they can honor their life and honor the caregivers of those who touched the patient. 
  • Access. Patients should be able to self-schedule and have same-day access. Patients should be able to have lab results as soon as it’s ready, and access to walk-in mammography clinics. The healthcare culture needs to continue to push for more patient access. 
  • Communication skills and training. Dr. Boissy didn’t want caregivers to walk away feeling bad. She wanted to design training to address complex and intricate conversations that the staff was having with caregivers, enabling them to feel more equipped to have them. Dr. Boissy stressed that the way we communicate has to be an ongoing process of improvement, not just something you check off a list.
    The way we communicate has to be an ongoing process of improvement, not just something you check off a list, says @boissyad #CX #Healthcare Share on X

What Do You Know NOW that You Wish You Knew THEN?

Dr. Boissy:

  • This work is ultimately about easing suffering. There’s so much suffering, it’s what makes us human. We shouldn’t frame it as something else. It’s not about HCAPS or metrics. It’s about making sure that patient walk out feeling cared for and secure.
  • I should’ve trusted my gut from the beginning
  • I Wish I took more time to take a breath and step back. Really, to understand what reduction of suffering in health care could look like.

And lastly, I want to leave you with this quote from Dr. Boissy that I think is a great reminder for healthcare practitioners:

Design moments that are exquisitely human, just that. If we don’t need it, we’ll design a high-touch experience. But we have to preserve and protect these human moments.”

Design moments that are exquisitely human, just that. If we don’t need it, we’ll design a high-touch experience. But we have to preserve and protect these human moments, says @boissyad #CX #healthcare Share on X

About Dr. Adrienne Boissy

Pioneering Customer Experience in Healthcare at Cleveland ClinicAdrienne Boissy, MD, MA, is Chief Experience Officer of Cleveland Clinic Health System and a staff neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Boissy leads the Office of Patient Experience and its initiatives to address and improve every aspect of a patient’s encounter with the Cleveland Clinic Health System—from their physical comfort to their educational, emotional and spiritual needs.

Dr. Boissy’s team created a comprehensive program to strengthen physician and clinician communication skills and has trained thousands of staff physicians and clinicians to date. The experience was captured in her recent book, Communication the Cleveland Clinic Way: How to Drive a Relationship-Centered Strategy for Superior Patient Experience.

Note from Jeanne: I want to let you know that we’ve now welcomed a sponsor for our show, Customerville. Until now, I have been paying for all of the expenses of the show myself. I love doing these for you – but they cost quite a bundle. This partnership ensures that I can continue these shows that you’ve shared such positive feedback on.  Thanks so much to Customervillle! Enjoy the show!

1 comment to " Pioneering Customer Experience in Healthcare at Cleveland Clinic "

  • While the podcast and article are excellent, the Cleveland Clinic itself appears to have serious issues. Specifically, it seems to have embraced pseudo-scientific nonsense and anti-vaccination idiocy into its core values. Please have a look at the article below, from January 18th. This is where customer experience meets its limits. People who want treatments that have no science behind them should simply not be given them by an otherwise respected institution, no matter what effect that has the ratings of the doctors concerned.

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