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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Inside Cleveland Clinic’s Cultural Shift

By Jeff Durr, Senior Managing Consultant

Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Delos Cosgrove, M.D., outlined in a recent LinkedIn post the cultural shift presently underway at Cleveland Clinic in which every single Cleveland Clinic employee -- from housekeepers to the neurosurgeons -- understands his or her role as caregivers. As a member of the Gallup team partnering with Cleveland Clinic to make the shift from “employees” to “caregivers,” I can say that creating transformative change in an organization steeped in tradition is considerably more challenging than Dr. Cosgrove makes it sound. 

To fully understand the breadth of change at Cleveland Clinic, you have to go back to 2007. At that time, under Dr. Cosgrove’s leadership, Cleveland Clinic announced that it would no longer organize itself by medical discipline, which had been an industry practice for the past 200 years. Instead, Cleveland Clinic decided to reorganize into clinical institutes centered around organ systems to better complement the group practice model. Cleveland Clinic implemented this innovative change to maximize coordination, improve patient access, and most importantly, to put the patients’ needs first.

Fast forward to 2013 and you find that this “Patients First” concept has become a guiding principle for Cleveland Clinic. “Patients First” is more than just a catchphrase; it is a cultural evolution in which every employee recognizes that they play an important role in the patient experience. While physicians and nurses have always been viewed as caregivers, this way of thinking is reasonably new -- even for a progressive place like Cleveland Clinic. 

Cleveland Clinic’s focus on turning every employee into a caregiver is supported by Gallup research showing that hospitals with a fully engaged staff have better outcomes, such as fewer infections, fewer slips and falls, less turnover, and higher productivity. As Dr. Cosgrove discusses in his LinkedIn post, Gallup continues to see a positive relationship between the level of employee engagement and the level of patient satisfaction with care, as reported by HCAHPS. Cleveland Clinic’s efforts to consistently assess and improve caregiver engagement as a way of improving patient outcomes show that this world-class health system truly puts patient care first.

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