Mastering the Patient Experience


Mastering the Patient Experience

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Mohandas K. Gandhi


Peter K. Kaiser, MD

Last week I had the opportunity to be a “patron” at the most prestigious golf tournament in the world — the Masters. For nongolfers, this major tournament is played on the storied Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia. “Patrons” are what the spectators are called at Augusta. The name signifies how the spectators are treated at this amazing event.

You see, I expected the incredibly manicured golf course, with its amazingly green fairways, slippery greens, azaleas in full bloom, and blindingly white sand traps. What I didn’t expect was the unbelievable service.

The service at Augusta puts even Disney to shame. From the second you arrive and park in your free parking space, you’re welcomed with open arms. The security guards search you with a smile and thank you for coming to the Masters. The tickets are scanned with a friendly smile and an “enjoy your day.”

The pro shop has helpers who smile and, unlike in most retail stores, actually enjoy being there and helping you, no matter how many shirts you try on. In the bathroom, a friendly chap asks if you need anything and thanks you for coming to the Masters on the way out.

Even the gallery marshals are friendly, which makes sense since there is a five-to 10-year wait list to become one (it is the only way to play Augusta without knowing a member). This makes the overall experience of Augusta unmatched.

Why is this important to our profession, which has some incredible surgeons who couldn’t care less about their patients’ experience? Organized medicine is moving from fee- to value-based payments, and outcomes will become paramount to determining the value of what we do and, consequently, how well we get paid.

Outcomes are obviously predicated on skill; however, numerous studies in multiple surgical specialties have reported that good patient satisfaction scores are correlated with better outcomes. At the Cleveland Clinic, we have surveyed our patients for years with the Press Ganey instrument. We see satisfaction scores and patient verbatims quarterly. It is used as a basis for our annual performance reviews.

This is the wave of the future. Patient experience is paramount. So these caricatured surgeons of old may be good technicians, but their terrible patient satisfaction scores will hurt their outcomes and, in a value-based payment system their wallets.

One of the guiding principles at the Cleveland Clinic is “Patients First.” Like the Masters, we should all treat our patients like “patrons” and thank them for coming to us. Combined with good skills, this will translate into excellent outcomes in the future.



Peter K. Kaiser, MD, Cleveland, OH


Jason S. Slakter, MD, New York, NY


Riva Lee Asbell, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Steve Charles, MD, FACS, FICS, Memphis, TN

Michael Colucciello, MD, Moorestown, NJ

Emmett T. Cunningham, MD, PhD, San Francisco, CA

Pravin U. Dugel, MD, Phoenix, AZ


Ron A. Adelman, MD, MPH, FACS, New Haven, CT

Francesco Bandello, MD, FEBO, Udine, Italy

Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, Minneapolis, MN

Rosario Brancato, MD, Milan, Italy

David Brown, MD, Houston, TX

Usha Chakravarthy, MD, PhD, Belfast, UK

Stanley Chang, MD, New York, NY

Emily Y. Chew, MD, Bethesda, MD

Kevin Corcoran, COE, CPC, San Bernardino, CA

Alan Cruess, MD, FRCSC, Halifax, Canada

Donald J. D’Amico, MD, New York, NY

Diana V. Do, MD, Baltimore, MD

Didier Ducournau, MD, Nantes, France

Dean Eliott, MD, Los Angeles, CA

Michel E. Farah, MD, Sao Paolo, Brazil

Sharon Fekrat, MD, Durham, NC

Frederick L. Ferris, MD, Bethesda, MD

Donald C. Fletcher, MD, San Francisco, CA

Anne Fung, MD, San Francisco, CA

Morton F. Goldberg, MD, FACS, Baltimore, MD

Julia A. Haller, MD, Philadelphia, PA

Seenu M. Hariprasad, MD, Chicago, IL

Jeffrey Heier, MD, Boston, MA

Allen C. Ho, MD, Philadelphia, PA

Frank Holz, MD, Bonn, Germany

Tomohiro Iida, MD, Maebashi, Japan

Lee M. Jampol, MD, Chicago, IL

Mark W. Johnson, MD, Ann Arbor, MI

Anat Loewenstein, MD, Tel Aviv, Israel

Martin A. Mainster, PhD, MD, Kansas City, KS

William F. Mieler, MD, Chicago, IL

Timothy G. Murray, MD, Miami, FL

Michael D. Ober, MD, Southfield, MI

Dennis A. Orlock, CRA, New York, NY

Kirk H. Packo, MD, Chicago, IL

Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, Los Angeles, CA

Carl D. Regillo, MD, FACS, Philadelphia, PA

Gisbert Richard, MD, Hamburg, Germany

Richard Rosen, MD, New York, NY

Philip J. Rosenfeld, MD, PhD, Miami, FL

Reginald J. Sanders, MD, Washington, DC

Steven D. Schwartz, MD, Los Angeles, CA

Ingrid U. Scott, MD, MPH, Hershey, PA

Stephen C. Sheppard, Springfield, MO

Jerry A. Shields, MD, Philadelphia, PA

Lawrence J. Singerman, MD, Cleveland, OH

Richard F. Spaide, MD, New York, NY

Giovanni Staurenghi, MD, Milan, Italy

Michael T. Trese, MD, Royal Oak, MI

George A. Williams, MD, Royal Oak, MI

Sebastian Wolf, MD, PhD, Bern, Switzerland

Lawrence A. Yannuzzi, MD, New York, NY