Road Trip To Cleveland Clinic 

IMG_2589On a dreary Sunday morning in mid-March, a cross-divisional team of AU leadership trekked through the Bender Arena tunnel, coffee in tow, to board an Adventure Tours charter bus.  With a six hour ride on the horizon and the threat of snow looming, the bus was filled to the brim with turkey jerky, Lärabars, and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Enrollment Sharon Alston’s famous mint chocolate Oreos.  Off to a rocky start, the bus’ wifi was malfunctioning.  Good thing Associate CIO Kamalika Sandell was aboard to immediately troubleshoot – no helpdesk ticket needed!

Once the AU team arrived, they met AU alumnus, Steve Lau, for dinner. Lau, an Ohio native who served on the Cleveland Clinic’s board of directors, shared his passion for the Clinic’s transformed service experience and his excitement that representatives of his alma mater were in town to learn how to apply the Clinic’s lessons to higher education.

Monday morning began bright and early.  SOC Dean Jeff Rutenbeck and SOC Associate Professor Larry Engel led an impromptu walking tour of the neighborhood, whereas the less adventuresome folks boarded the hotel shuttle toward our destination.  The full day’s event was held at The Office of Patient Experience in the historic home of Francis E. Drury, creator of the first internal-gear lawn mower and who made his fortune by bringing the kerosene stove to market.  Bright eyed and with great anticipation, AU’s leadership group sat around a formal dining room table and spent the next eight hours earnestly hearing of what embodies The Cleveland Clinic Experience.

The Clinic’s mission: Better care of the sick, investigation into their problems, and education of those who serve, is exemplified throughout their model, which beholds the goal of giving every patient the best outcomes and experience.  The evidence of their success rests in two important metrics. The Clinic, already one of the nation’s best hospitals, saw health outcomes improve further, while patient satisfaction rose dramatically. The AU visitation team sought to understand how they even began such a remarkable transformation.  “Rest on what you know and just start somewhere,” was the straightforward answer. IMG_2695

There are many learnings from this trip, one of which is the Clinic’s practice of Rounding—standing monthly meetings that occur at every single level of the organization.  These sessions engage employees with rotating topics such as information technology and communication, and are also used as a forum to celebrate successes.  Additionally, the Clinic seems to have mastered its collection and use of data.  Employing a 360 degree, transparent feedback loop, they have a Data Intelligence Team with four dedicated FTEs who drive the data strategy and keep it standardized throughout the entire organization.

Not only does the Clinic seem to excel in its use of metrics, they have creatively designed a highly effective means of communicating and managing their complaints through an Ombudsman team that is housed within the highest levels of the organization.  This office serves as a neutral party and is not a patient advocate.  Interestingly, in order to best understand the language of the patient, no one in the office even has a clinical background; instead, the team is comprised of attorneys, therapists, and social workers.

Minds overflowing with valuable insight, the team promptly departed Cleveland at 4:30PM with high hopes of arriving back in D.C. before midnight.  Jeff Rutenbeck crawled through the aisle of bus, stopping by each passenger to ask what their key takeaways were and writing them on a large post-it.  On the way home, the team stopped in Pittsburgh for dinner.  Jeff’s large post-it was propped up in the restaurant with the help of Chairman of the Board, Jack Cassell, and robust dialogue ensued.  With tired eyes, the Adventure Tours bus rolled back onto campus at 1:30AM—well past our bedtimes.

— Bridget Cooney, RiSE Project Manager