Cleveland Clinic's 'Other CEO'

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders News , September 26, 2007

Scoff at her title if you will, but the Cleveland Clinic's new chief experience officer says she intends to do nothing less than set a new standard for patient satisfaction. "I was met with some cynicism and skepticism at this organization," admits the clinic's "other" CEO, M. Bridget Duffy, MD. "I think if all this role does is put apples in a basket in the emergency department or wireless remotes in waiting rooms, then they should be skeptical."

Duffy's main tasks are to focus on enhancing the patient and employee experience. She's working to create a model that will be a "competitive differentiator" for the organization. For example, she's begun a pilot program that will map the patient experience from door to door to understand what's important to the patient emotionally and physically. She also intends to map the employee experience, she says, in order to create a more comprehensive and patient-centric model of care.

"This is based on the belief that people today are seeking more than just the best clinical outcome," she says. The goal is to create an organization that's not only known for excellent clinical outcomes, but also for high levels of patient satisfaction. In fact, she notes, because of technological advances, outcomes have improved to the point that it becomes harder to compete in that area alone.

"People will start seeking institutions to go to that will deliver on both" clinical outcomes and experience, she says.

To Duffy, internal satisfaction is a key link in the chain of enhanced patient experience-and makes business sense, too. Revenue growth, customer loyalty, and quality of service are all tied to employees, Duffy points out. And satisfied employees provide better service. "It is so simple and it is so basic," she says. "It's just something that we've forgotten, that all these parts are linked."

Of course any new program--especially one that is this new, won't work without leadership buy-in. Support for Duffy's role in the organization comes from the very top.

"This position really came from [Delos M. Cosgrove, MD, CEO and president] of the clinic. This was his idea, his passion," she says. "When he talks about the legacy he wants to leave here, his top priority is to transform the patient experience."

That top-down support gives Duffy increased visibility and credibility. "That has helped pave the way quite a bit for me," she says.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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