Cleveland Clinic’s PR team reacts to shout-out during presidential debate

President Obama praised the organization on Wednesday. We got the PR team’s reaction.


President Obama is clearly a big fan of Cleveland Clinic. And he told 58 million people so on Wednesday night.

In case you can’t see the video, here’s what he had to say about it during the first debate of the season:

“So, at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care cheaper than average. And the reason they do is because they do some smart things. They say, if a patient’s coming in, let’s get all the doctors together at once, do one test instead of having the patient run around with 10 tests. Let’s make sure that we’re providing preventive care so we’re catching the onset of something like diabetes. Let’s pay providers on the basis of performance as opposed to on the basis of how many procedures they’ve engaged in.”

We couldn’t help but think: What did the PR team at Cleveland Clinic think about this big shout-out?

“We didn’t expect it,” Eileen Sheil, executive director of corporate communications for Cleveland Clinic says. “He came to visit in 2009, and he’s mentioned us a few times before publicly. But we were thrilled to hear him last night.”

Sheil received more than 100 messages on her BlackBerry from employees, board members, friends, and patients on Wednesday night.

Why the special mention?

“We’re connected to the conversation about health care reform, and we’re vocal in the conversation in Washington,” Sheil says, “but we also have a unique model of care.”

That model is physician based. That means physicians are employees of Cleveland Clinic. Each doctor and even the CEO are on a one-year contract. Because physicians are salaried, there’s no financial gain for them to run multiple tests or perform a lot surgeries on patients, which can drive up the overall cost of health care.

“The incentive is to do what’s right for the patient,” Sheil says.

Turnover for the more than 3,000 physicians is low. The board of governors (usually physicians), spends about 8,000 hours a year in peer performance reviews.

Keying on wellness

Besides its physician-based model, Cleveland Clinic emphasizes wellness.

Cleveland Clinic is the first health organization to hire a chief patient experience officer and a wellness officer. Smoking is banned on campus, yoga classes are offered on the rooftop, and you won’t find a fryer in the kitchen.

To acknowledge Obama’s mention, Sheil and her team emailed around a thank-you letter to its 42,000 employees, acknowledging them for their hard work. There’s a possibility Cleveland Clinic might publicly acknowledge this salute from Obama on its Facebook page and Twitter account soon.

“We don’t want to use this as promotion, but more like a ‘thank you’ for the recognition,” Sheil says. “It’s pretty neat when the president of the United States says something nice about you.”

And a nod to Mayo Clinic

Also during the debate, Mayo Clinic was acknowledged by former Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee. Bryan Anderson, who works in Mayo Clinic’s department of public affairs, offered this nonpartisan statement:

“Our continuous innovation and efforts to drive value in health care are an examples for the public sector and we stand ready to assist the next president—no matter who wins the election—in delivering high quality and efficient care for all Americans.”

Jessica Levco is co-editor of Health Care Communications News, a sister site of PR Daily.

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