In almost 14 years of working within the Cleveland Clinic healthcare system, both in the United States and in Abu Dhabi, I have observed many factors that contribute to achieving high standards of healthcare.
One factor stands out above everything else: our employees, especially the way they are organised, the way they provide care and the environment in which they function.
Cleveland Clinic is deeply involved in the Arab world, not only through Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, but also by providing guidance and support to other healthcare facilities as they work to raise standards.
Unfortunately, too many hospitals focus only on recruiting talented staff, then pay little attention to nurturing that talent. This can be particularly true in countries where a high proportion of caregivers are expatriates hired from abroad.
For healthcare managers, we must match our investment in facilities with our commitment to people, and ensure that caregivers feel personally engaged with their work and with the organisation. We must study the working environment, understand how we can better serve our caregivers, and then act on that understanding in ways that is transparent and tangible. This must be true whatever the caregiver’s role, whether doctors or nurses, technicians, pharmacists, therapists, or our many non-clinical staff.
The primary benefit of creating a truly professional environment, in which caregivers are empowered to grow personally and professionally, is that we make significant gains in staff retention. This has been a problem for many hospitals in this region. However, a positive workplace also has a clear impact on patient experience and outcomes.
My predecessor as CEO of Cleveland Clinic, Dr Toby Cosgrove, enthusiastically made “patients first” the mantra for our caregivers, consistently improving standards of quality, safety and patient outcomes, while also maintaining affordability. Our caregivers are following and always improving our model of care, achieving excellence based on core values of quality, innovation, teamwork, service, compassion and integrity. This means treating every patient like family, and treating this organisation and its resources like their own. If we, as the collective caregivers within a hospital, use these two principles to guide us, we will always make the right choices for our patients and for the organisation.
And for our caregivers to put our patients first, I as an administrator must put my caregivers first. All 51,000 of them, whose skills and experience must be matched by humanity and empathy. We can only take good care of patients if we take good care of each other. As a physician and a surgeon, my greatest commitment will always be to the wellbeing of my patients, and therefore as a CEO my highest priority must be to improve the caregiver experience. Everything else we can achieve depends on it.
Dr Tomislav Mihaljevic is the Cleveland Clinic CEO