Creating the Patient Experience

Insights from a Chief Experience Officer

Cleveland Clinic Chief Experience Officer Adrienne Boissy, MD, MA, is a neurologist who specializes in multiple sclerosis. Here, she shares how family and patients help to keep her grounded. She also answers a few questions about Cleveland Clinic’s fast approaching Patient Experience Summit, for which she is serving as co-chair. The event, taking place May 22-24 at the Cleveland Convention Center, is the world’s largest independent conference devoted to improving the patient experience. To learn more and register go to

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How do you stay positive and anchored?

Dance parties with my boys and teaching my husband to moonwalk are the types of moments filled with laughter that bring renewal after a long day. And relationships with patients provide joy and serve as an anchor for me. My time with patients keeps me grounded. To build relationships with them, it is important to see each patient as a person with a disease – not as a disease. And we can never underestimate the power of touch — even squeezing the hand of someone in a coma can help. We can’t forget empathy either. I recently told a woman my age that she had MS. It never gets easier. Recognizing the gravity of that moment is something I hope to honor.

Tell us about a time when a loved one was a patient. What did you learn from that experience?
I remember the morning they wheeled my 96-year-old cantankerous great aunt into surgery. They took out her teeth, her hearing aid and removed her glasses. And it just hit me in that moment, how vulnerable people are. She couldn’t really see or communicate, much less hear. What would that experience be like? I found myself hoping that people would approach her with care because how would they know that we had just removed her ways of interacting with the world? I thought about how much trust patients place in us and how can we build on that.

What keeps you excited about the future of healthcare?
The idea that we are not just caring for patients. We are caring for human beings, including our own colleagues. In addition to thinking of how we can drive care for patients, how can we think more creatively about enhancing the lives of our own caregivers, and the lives of our patients? That feels really exciting.

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What ritual could you not do without in your workday?
Snuggling with my kids before my workday begins.

Share a time-saving technology tip you use.
Picking up the phone. It’s funny how we get into the habit of writing an email or drafting a beautiful message in the electronic medical record – but many times, it can be faster to make a call.

Cleveland Clinic’s Patient Experience Summit is later this month. How would you describe the event?
Patient experience, innovation, quality and safety at a rock star conference on steroids! It’s a little crazy, a little fun and intellectually stimulating. There are interactive pieces of art and sessions on topics you’ve been thinking about for some time but haven’t quite figured out how to break through.

We have speakers who will get you thinking in new ways. There’s a fantastic speaker, Rana Awdish, MD, who just published an article in The New England Journal of Medicine about creating a culture of caring based on her experience as a patient. It is an incredibly powerful piece that talks about how to translate a single experience into a culture and what that looks like. Another great speaker I’m looking forward to is Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, who wrote the books Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. She has a clinical background and began publishing short stories about the humanity she was seeing in her own practice and how that shaped her as a clinician.

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It’s never just patient experience. It’s about how we deliver safe care and quality care in this new world of high reliability and constant change. Indu Subaiya, MD, MBA, who has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on in Silicon Valley and new technologies shaping and enhancing both patient engagement and clinician experience, will speak. Richard Milani, MD, from Ochsner Medical Center, will talk about transforming patient care into a connected environment driven by technology that has a meaningful impact on quality and experience.

To register and learn more about the Patient Experience Summit, go to