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Blog: The Cleveland Clinic Model for Healthcare

Jun 30, 2010 | By Jean Sammon

When I saw the notice about Delos M. Cosgrove, M.D., the CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, speaking at the Center for American Progress in downtown Washington, DC, I figured I had to go for several reasons.

1. I grew up in Cleveland, and was familiar with the Clinic's legendary status. When President Obama cited the Cleveland Clinic as a model for healthcare reform, I felt some hometown pride.

2. I have quite an interest in healthcare reform, both personally and as part of NETWORK's work on the issue, and I want to know how we can make sure that everyone gets quality, affordable care in the future.

Here are some things I learned from Dr. Cosgrove:

  • The doctors at the Clinic are salaried employees on a one-year contract, with no tenure, and an annual peer review. There are no financial incentives for doctors to do more, or less, procedures than necessary.
  • Electronic medical records tie all the Clinic locations together, and they have a transportation system to move the patient to the right facility for the right care at the right time.
  • Administrators of the Clinic are former doctors, whose philosoply is that it is better to keep people healthy than to treat them when they are sick. They actively promote wellness among their employees and in the community by offering weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs. They do not hire anyone who smokes, they've banned trans-fats and fryers from their food service, and eliminated pop (a.k.a. soda) and candy from vending machines.
  • The Clinic is organized around patients' problems, not doctors professions. That means there is no "department of surgery" where different types of surgeons may have nothing in common, but there is a heart institute, a neurology center, a urology center, and other centers where different types of doctors can collaborate on a patient's specific problem.

It was heartening for me to hear that the Clinic administrators are getting lots of questions from other healthcare providers around the country about how they can replicate the Clinic's success.