Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit 2018

Empathy + Innovation



A two day conference held during June 18-20 in Cleveland, OH

In attendance were stakeholders at all levels across the healthcare space including patients, clinicians, and decision-makers. To gain perspectives on empathy through different lenses I spoke with the Cleveland Clinic staff, healthcare leaders, decision-makers, and healthcare enthusiasts in regards to defining patient experience. As well as predictions and future outlook for technology and humanism in healthcare.

Jessica Crow, MBA Program Manager IV, Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication

Incorporating Patient Centrism  at the Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communications at the Cleveland Clinic

We focus on communication, empathy, and just seeing people as people. Having real conversations, getting to know who they are, understanding their needs, what’s important to them, their families, their backgrounds. So that you can truly figure out how to care for the entire person.

Barriers Hindering Excellent in Patient Experience

Time! Time is always an issue within communication and medicine. Whatever we do, the feedback we always hear is “well I don’t have any time. I don’t have time for that. I have to see more patients, or I don’t have time to go to a class, etc.”. I think that if we were to use some of the skills that we try to have people focus on, it saves you time. Time is always a barrier. Productivity; there’s always an ask to do more and more with less and less, faster. We’re constantly trying to compete with that. What gets lost at times is that connection, seeing people as people, then gets very robotic, monotonous, emotionless, and cold.


When I hear it, what I think of is, somebody hearing me, somebody understanding what I’m going through, somebody almost feeling what I’m feeling and being able to recognize that for me. Not about themselves, not about anything else, but thinking about what I’m going through at that time and how that must feel. When you get that genuine response at that moment and feel like they’re listening to me, they understand how I’m feeling and that they care.

Joaquin Dos Reis, Program Manager, Global Education, Cleveland Clinic

Caring the Cleveland Clinic Way

I care about education, sharing information, I care about others, I care about our patients, our colleagues, caregivers, staff, everyone!

Empathy at the Global Education Department.

Empathy means everything. If you are a Cleveland Clinic caregiver, from the first time you park your car, you are in the Cleveland Clinic, you are a Cleveland Clinic caregiver. Part of that is that we have the opportunity to work with patients and work with colleagues and physicians from all over the world. We connect the dots, we bring international physicians to the Cleveland Clinic to meet our physicians and leaders.


Julie Rish, Ph.D., Director of Communication Skills Training and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic

Humanism in Medicine

I think that medicine is inherently human. The art of medicine without relationships— We’re not just technicians. Similarly, providing an excellent patient experience is about meeting people in a very relational human way. Optimal healing can’t occur without the humanity of medicine and true understanding of another person sitting in front of you, without being able to empathize with your experience. Relationships are healing in and of themselves. When we’re connecting as people it’s healing to me as a clinician but it’s also healing to the person that’s sitting in front of me.

Barriers in Healthcare Delivery

There are a lot of barriers that equal time and task pressure. How can I be present at this moment and not be thinking, three steps ahead or three steps behind but just to be present at the moment? When you do that you can find meaning and purpose in your work. The barrier is how do we overcome those obstacles to create moments of presence, being mindful, and truly connecting a human level? In doing so, that’s where we can find restoration and purpose and get back to why you chose this profession, this career, this entity in the first place.

Watch/Read The Entire Discussion

Richard I. Levin, MD, FACP, FACC, FAHA, President and CEO of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation

Thoughts on Technology & Healthcare

Technological wonders need now to be incorporated as physicians had done for these two millennia into a system of practice and care that shares the responsibility for the care to the extent possible with the patient and the family. I think it’s not so far away, it’s not so difficult for us to figure out how to do that as long as this is an accepted goal of the entire system with each health system contributing to it to the best that they can.

Read/Watch The Entire Discussion

Michael Joseph, PMP the founder and C.E.O. of Prime Dimensions and Executive Director of Empathy. Health

What I can do overall to contribute to the patient journey, patient’s experiences is that’s the impetus for empathy.health, part of that was influenced by what’s going on here at the conference, Patient Experience Conference with Dr. Adrienne Boissy, MD, MA who has been preaching this for quite some time long before empathy.Health came along.
Curating content from that site into ours would be great. In addition to other industry leaders and folks on Twitter that have contributed dialogue as well. There’s Empathy Princess on Twitter, Merriman. There are so many people on Twitter even today, the whole #pinksocks movement and tweet chats #HCLDR about this. It’s a great platform for people to voice their opinions, their frustrations, and best practices. Maybe, we can grab some of that and put that collectively on Empathy.Health as a resource.

Watch/Read the Entire Discussion

David Watson, MD. A physician surveyor for The Joint Commission.

Healthcare Workers & Empathy

I think the empathy for me and the important part of this conference is what I talked about earlier, that’s the second victim. These are healthcare workers that are involved in an adverse event. The empathy that needs to be expressed to them is that connection of realizing that they’ve been in a difficult situation and they need to be supported.

They need to be reassured and they need to know that they went into medicine for the right reasons. They take care of patients because they love what they do and they should continue to have that fire in their eye when they go to work every day to be engaged. We know that total engagement leads to fewer errors so we want our workforce to be engaged.

Watch/Read The Entire Discussion

Jason A Wolf, Ph.D. CPXP. Dr. Wolf is the President of The Beryl Institute

Patient Experience & Empathy

We researched empathy, compassion, all these kind of things. We asked consumers, to what extent empathy and compassion were important to them. I was surprised, it came down the list. I think it’s because empathy is a healthcare-centric language. A typical patient and family member out there know what they want to see. They want to feel listened to, they want to feel like they are being spoken to in a way they understand, etc. Those were the things they elevated in terms of importance. For me, the lens is not to get stuck in what empathy is but to think about what does it look like in action.

I’m probably less concerned about how we define empathy. How we elevate empathy and the actions that we take to ensure that patients, family members, and those that are delivering care feel heard, are communicated to effectively, are engaged in ways that matter to them, then they feel what we believe empathy is. All of those things without having to put a label on it in a way that is about us doing something but more so about engaging the folks in care themselves.

Watch/Read The Entire Discussion

Claire Pfarr, Marketing Manager, Oneview

Thoughts on Patient Experience

Patient experience is one of those things I have found where no matter who you are, what walk of life you come from when you’re speaking to people they all have a patient story. Everybody has a patient story. Whether they were a patient, or whether they were caring for a patient, everybody has healthcare experience that that’s most often not necessarily a good one. I think that is very telling, but I think that healthcare has the opportunity to take care of these people and to turn a negative situation into a very positive one.

Evan Peskin, Resident Physician, #PESummit Attendee

Thoughts on Empathy in Healthcare

Empathy is essential to us being human beings. The idea is to look at our fellow men and women and see pain, happiness, or suffering and feel that yourself. To be able to truly feel what someone else is going through. It’s different from sympathy, it’s not just feeling bad for someone else for what they’re going through. Empathy is truly experiencing or attempting to experience what the other person is going through.

Improving the Patient Experience

We improve the patient experience (as much as it’s a cliche) by recognizing that everyone is a patient at one time or another. Even if you’re not the patient sitting in the hospital bed, you’re the family member standing next to your loved one there. You improve the patient experience by taking the physician off the pedestal. Physicians should not be autonomous decision-makers anymore without any input from patients and family members.

Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D, Founder of Help Each Other Out

Dr. Crowe, a plenary speaker at the PESummit used real-life examples of empathy in healthcare that were collected at the Help Each Other Out Empathy Bootcamp  

Empathy Examples

  • It made a difference when my nurse: stood by my side and made physical contact with me during my biopsy. It was so comforting and reduced my anxiety. Thank you!
  • A UCSF staff person (receptionist, security guard, health aid) made me feel better when: let me lie down on the couch to rest and even dimmed the lights for me.
  • Something my doctor did or said that comforted me: Hugged me.

Dr. Crowe then stated These are often recalled years later.

  • The receptionist/scheduler has been so helpful when: She moved another appointment by 10 minutes so that I could have my very first appointment after diagnosis with the surgeon, without having to wait 3 weeks.

“I can’t tell you how often people describe this kind of behavior by schedulers and receptionists” Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D

Read/Watch More on Empathy & Healthcare

Social Media Activities & #PESummit

During the summit Colin Hung posed a crucial question, challenging the glory of patient experience to the #HCLDR tweet-chat community “Have We Reached Peak Patient Experience?”. Read more on Hubberts Peak Theory, Colin’s rationale, and thoughts on patient experience via the  Healthcare Leadership Blog