June 22, 2017

The Novelty of Patient-Centered Care and Physician Leadership

Hint: neither are novel, both are essential


By Wael Barsoum, MD


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What’s the ‘secret sauce’ that allows Cleveland Clinic Florida to lead in quality outcomes while consistently providing quaternary care to the sickest patients? The answer lies in our focus on compassionate, patient-centered care, innovation and teamwork.

Patient-centered care is a relatively new term, but it’s not a novel idea. At Cleveland Clinic, we define it as providing safe, high-quality care that meets patients’ physical and emotional needs. It’s combining safe practices with positive experiences to provide an unparalleled level of care for our patients. It’s the person-to-person contact that draws us to service through medicine.

Since our founding more than 90 years ago, Cleveland Clinic has been a physician-led organization because we believe this leadership structure facilitates patient-centered care. Our mindset today remains the same and the time-honored success of the physician leadership model is reflected in this Harvard Business Review article. Citing quality scores that are approximately 25 percent higher, the article recognizes this structure as the superior organizational model in healthcare. The novelty here is that research supports the way we’ve run our organization and provided treatment to patients for decades.


According to the HBR article, co-authored by James K. Stoller, M.D., Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Education Institute and a pulmonologist, and colleagues, physicians learn valuable insights and earn credibility through the practice of medicine, which becomes critically important in their work as institutional leaders. Furthermore, physician administrators are uniquely prepared to support the needs of caregiving teams and their commitment to patients. In doing so, we also demonstrate our organizational values to other stakeholders, including patients, industry partners and donors.

Physician innovation and impact

Physician leaders who are innovators also have the inside view on creating new ways to serve patients. Using technology as a catalyst, we are developing new treatments to vexing problems, such as helping stroke patients recover functioning. In this vein, a Cleveland Clinic team recently performed a pioneering procedure to improve recovery in stroke patients. Led by neurosurgeon Andre Machado, MD, PhD, the procedure was part of an ongoing clinical trial assessing the potential of Deep Brain Stimulation, already in use for treating Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, to improve movement in recovering stroke patients.

In my own field of orthopaedics, physician collaboration and technology have led to innovation as new devices to treat patients, particularly in the field of surgical implants for hip and knee replacements have been developed. Technology also has tremendous potential in genomic medicine and precision medicine and physicians, who are increasingly in the C-suite, are advancing healthcare to create solutions that enhance patient-centered care. Through adopting a patient-centered care philosophy, combined with teamwork and innovation, the next generation of physicians will find it easier to lead our industry, just as physicians have led at Cleveland Clinic since its inception.


Learn to become a physician leader with Cleveland Clinic Global Executive Education programs, including The Cleveland Clinic Way: IntensivesSamson Global Leadership Academy and the Executive Visitors’ Program.

Dr. Barsoum is President of Cleveland Clinic Florida and staff in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

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