I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
In 2004, acclaimed heart surgeon Dr. Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove became the CEO of Cleveland Clinic, an institution known for innovation and excellence in patient outcomes. As he transitioned from surgery to strategy, he was invited to speak to Harvard Business School students about the Cleveland Clinic model of care. During that address, he was challenged by a student who asked whether he taught empathy for patients at Cleveland Clinic. It is a story that Toby has shared over the years as a defining moment in his strategic thinking. Patients go home from the Clinic “well,” but do they feel well cared for? The seed and the stake were planted for Patients First, Cleveland Clinic’s defining purpose.
I am on the board of the Clinic, and Toby asked me to translate my business credentials in customer experience to help the Clinic with the patient experience by chairing a board-level committee on patient safety, quality, and experience and to work with the new chief experience officer, Dr. Jim Merlino. In my role as then vice chairman of community banking at KeyBank, I had embarked on a similar journey—to differentiate through the customer experience by putting the customer at the center of everything we do.
Jim Merlino is a rising star, whose passion for the patient is rooted in an experience with his ailing father, where he found himself on the “other side” of medical practices and outcomes. In the early days, Jim and I would meet to discuss ways to institutionalize the Clinic’s nascent efforts in patient experience. The principles I had developed in banking on how to drive change and customer experience were relevant, but being involved in Cleveland Clinic’s transformation around the patient opened my eyes and upped my game as well. And in the process of working together, Jim and I became friends.
Jim had no clear starting point and no clear definition of success. There were no playbooks or manuals on what to do. He launched a methodical internal and external process to learn best practices from a variety of industries, as well as understand and determine what success would look like for Cleveland Clinic.
It takes leadership to set the tone and to set aspirational goals for an institution. Together, Toby and Jim created the processes for organizational change and required and empowered all the employees of the Clinic—from physicians to service workers—to become caregivers. With no guidebook on how to take Patients First from aspirational goal to operational reality, the Clinic embarked on a journey of trial and error, success and failure, until the aspiration became a strategy and tactics were developed that allowed the Clinic to implement world-class patient experience. Service Fanatics is a testament to Jim’s passion and work, but also to Toby Cosgrove and Cleveland Clinic.
A senior leader of another hospital once said, “We can’t all be Cleveland Clinic.” To which Jim responds, “Yes, you can.”
Service Fanatics shows you how. It is the road map, rich with stories and examples, as well as tools and insights to operationalize the patient experience. Improving the patient experience is not only the right thing to do; it is an imperative in the changing world of regulation and law in American healthcare. But its message and content transcend healthcare. Service Fanatics provides pragmatic lessons and actionable takeaways for business professionals in many industries—mine included. In an era of content overload, it is a compelling and valuable read.
Beth E. Mooney
Chairman and CEO