Editor’s Note: Clinical Impact Symposium speaker Adrienne Boissy has been named Chief Experience Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, effective January, 2015. To learn more, click here.

Enhancing Patient and Provider Experience with Every Single WorldAdrienne Boissy, MD, MA, is the Medical Director for the Center of Excellence in Healthcare Communication at the Cleveland Clinic. She and her team have created a comprehensive program to strengthen physician and provider communication skills throughout the Cleveland Clinic and have trained more than 4,000 staff physicians and house staff to date.

Dr. Boissy presented data on what factors influence a patient’s choice of hospital. The most important factor, it emerged, was the patient experience. Unsurprisingly, when patients indicate what they want from a hospital, being treated with respect is paramount. They also want the staff to listen to their needs, and address their concerns. But the need for improved communication isn’t important just between patients and staff. Patients also want better communication between staff.

The approach used by Dr. Boissy emphasizes relationships. The one day session is now mandatory for on-boarding new staff at the Cleveland Clinic and it has won national acclaim. It is an eight-hour experiential, learner-centered course incorporating improvisation, videos, small-group facilitation and action methods.

She emphasizes relationships because she found many clinicians didn’t feel it was their job to create them and often suffered from what Dr. Boissy referred to as “unconscious incompetence,” where the provider or staff member didn’t see that there were any problems with their relationship or communication skills. To benefit from the training, the provider must acknowledge they can improve their communications skills. The payoff is worthwhile, though, because it can help providers not only with their patients but also with their colleagues and peers. It can help the provider build up resiliency and avoid burnout.

Dr. Boissy notes that, despite the benefits, she experiences a variety of reactions to her training, from bewilderment to healthy skepticism. The symposium audience was able to experience this first hand as they were asked to voice the most pressing concerns of an imaginary 75-year-old woman who has had a stroke and is in a hospital. At first, the audience was hesitant to participate, or unsure of what they are being asked to do, and they raise their hands tentatively, but as Mary is given voice by one attendee, then another, more hands shoot up as others want to be Mary’s voice.

As the presentation drew to a close, Dr. Boissy showed a video on empathy developed by the Cleveland Clinic that shows the human face of each person in the hospital. From the patients to the staff, as the camera travels through the hospital, we see that this patient has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, while the nurse in the elevator has just been through a divorce. With its simple but powerful visuals, it served as a reminder that there are people behind the roles of patient or provider. It ends by asking the viewer, “If you could stand in someone else’s shoes, see what they see, hear what they hear, feel what they feel, would you treat them differently?”