Here's How Cleveland Clinic Is Transforming Empathy Communication

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Modern patients are far more than passive consumers of medical services. They know what they expect from their healthcare provider and they're not afraid to shop around to get it. They expect to be treated like they would by any other customer-facing organization, and that means one thing - experience.

Recent research finds that 63 percent of healthcare organizations are laboring under the impression that they are delivering superior patient care. However, less than half (43 percent) of their patients agree with that statement. This is backed up by yet more research which found that a massive 81 percent of patients were dissatisfied with their healthcare experience and that the less they interacted with the system, the happier they were.

To try and tackle its own patient experience, Cleveland Clinic wanted to focus on one of the most crucial of patient care concepts - empathy.

Cleveland Clinic

Understanding that today's healthcare users are far savvier than previous generations, Cleveland Clinic wanted to make itself stand out from the crowd.

Today's healthcare industry is more competitive than ever and many consumers - especially those in larger metropolitan areas - have multiple providers from which to choose. With many providers offering similar, if not identical, treatments and other services, Cleveland Clinic understood that patient experience was the battlefield on which this particular war would be won, and empathy the weapon with which it would achieve that victory.

"Human dignity is preserved as you shop at the mall, and people know the prices of everything they buy in any other industry," said Cleveland Clinic Chief Experience Officer, Adrienne Boissy. "Retail clinics these days like CVS are texting you as soon as your prescription is done. Contrast this to healthcare today, the work still left to do. We still serve some food that is unidentifiable. We still have some bills you can't possibly understand. So, we leave patients sometimes with a bad experience feeling lost, helpless, alone, frustrated, and vulnerable. Our responsibility as people to create systems that care is tremendous."

And, being 2019, Cleveland Clinic also understood that digital technology could provide a way for healthcare organizations to communicate and engage more effectively with their customers and develop a more empathic connection with them at all stages of the patient journey.

To this end, Cleveland Clinic is deploying dozens of technology-based solutions, designed to help their practitioners connect more effectively with their patients and develop true empathic relationships during treatment journeys. One of the biggest problems in healthcare is how disconnected and out of control patients can feel about their treatment. Healthcare providers who can prove they are empathic with those feelings and can provide ways to address them are the ones most likely to succeed.

"So, leaping forward also means thinking about the digital experience our patients will have in this new world," added Boissy. "Even though e-learning and nano coaching will occur, people still hunger for [hands-on] learning. Even though we might communicate through virtual platforms, interactive in-patient technology, voice-activated technology, people are still talking. Even with some touches becoming virtual through mobile devices or through eICUs, people still want relationships and still want to feel cared for."

Patient Experience and Empathy

However, while all this technology is clearly very exciting and is providing amazing ways for healthcare brands to develop ever deeper customer relationships, Cleveland Clinic is eager to stress that it's equally important not to forget the human experience.

To develop a truly empathic customer experience, one must take a holistic approach that considers the entire patient environment. Social determinants such as access to transportation, food, socioeconomic status, the community of support the patient has around them and more will all contribute towards determining their engagement with healthcare, treatment schedules, and the resultant clinical outcomes.

Patients need to know that their healthcare provider understands these considerations and will work with them to overcome any related issues.

"Words matter, even when that might seem obvious and the way healthcare organizations communicate with both patients and clinicians is ripe to be reimagined," said Cleveland Clinic President and CEO, Tom Mihaljevic. "We need to rethink established words in healthcare. We have to rethink how we communicate the things we care about to our fellow caregivers and our patients."

Final Thoughts

Empathic patient experience should be the goal of every healthcare organization, and the best way to achieve it is to combine digital technology with good old-fashioned bedside manner and understanding. Those healthcare brands which can successfully meet these needs will almost certainly have a bright future ahead of them.

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