Paging Dr. House.


After our second trip to the Cleveland Clinic and 20 years in the business of public relations, I can make a few speculations about what goes down in Cleveland Clinic marketing/PR team meetings. There are sentiments like:

“We have to consider the patients perspective.”

“No one wants to be sick. How do we help them forget for a while why they are here?”

“What can we do to make their visit to CC as pleasant as an experience as possible?”

And if you have ever been there, you know that they do succeed to a point. There is peaceful music, beautiful sculptures, open waiting areas with plenty of plug ins and space for kids to play. Parking is simple and can be done by valet. There are several shopping and food options. It really feels like no other hospital.

They make it easy to forget why you are there. Almost.

Then you step into your exam room and meet with your doctor. Or as it has been in our case, your doctor in training. And you realize that no matter how much the marketing and PR people want to control your experience and impression of their organization, it only takes a single doctor about two minutes to blow it all to hell.

While I know that the Cleveland Clinic is innovative and is probably responsible for healing millions of people, our experience there has been nothing short of frustrating to the point of vowing to never return.

It’s not that a particular doctor was rude or not doing their job. We really didn’t spend enough time with them to get a real feel for how they do their job.

After meeting with the infectious disease unit at the first visit, we were told that what was going with David didn’t sound like infection, but that they would take blood tests to be sure. When the results came back, two weeks late, a nurse from the doctors office called to say, “You don’t have Lyme Disease. Follow up with Neuro in December.”

Thus we made our second trip to the Clinic yesterday. After again spending nearly 45 minutes explaining the symptoms and getting a cursory exam from the resident, we were left to wait in the tiny exam room (with all three kids) while the resident consulted with the neurosurgeon.

Let me make two things clear. 1>) I understand a bit about how the medical education process works and know that having vitals and medical history taken by a resident is normal and a smart part of the process. 2.) I also understand that a neurosurgeon is a very busy, extremely intelligent individual who probably saves lives every day.

Those things said, how is it that every doctor I meet seems to have skipped the class on bedside manner? Or is that not part of the 8-12 years of education they receive?

For many years now, I have talked with educators and other marketing/PR folks about the need for college classes that teach students professionalism – how to dress, how to show up on time, how to come to your boss with an idea or to request a raise and the like. It just makes sense.

Most of the physicians I know need one of these classes, too – how to treat a patient like a person not an illness, how to explain that even the simplest of tests impact their diagnosis, how to talk to the other doctor in the room without treating the patient like they aren’t even there, how the secretive shared glances and jargon-filled language you use in front of a patient make them feel like they are an idiot. And scare them to death. I think we would have rather been seen by Dr. House. At least you know he wouldn’t stop until he got to the bottom of what ails you!

Maybe what they need is class of roll playing? This is what the patient feels like. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you want a colleague to treat you if you were sitting on that damn cold table with your ass hanging out the back of a robe?!

And by all means, if you come to the conclusion that what is wrong with the patient may not be neuro-based, Mr. Neurosurgeon, please explain that conclusion and maybe share some thoughts on what might be going on or a suggestion of what to do next. I realize this will take longer than the two minutes (I timed him) that it took you to reach your diagnosis, but I will go away with all those happy thoughts your marketing team wanted me to have.


Not writing blog posts about how much I hope I never have to visit your organization again.


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