The Washington Post

Here’s why the head of the Cleveland Clinic could help Obama fix the VA

Delos "Toby" Cosgrove, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland Clinic (Bloomberg)

It’s easy to see why the White House is considering Cleveland Clinic chief executive Toby Cosgrove to permanently lead the embattled Veterans Administration.

The 93-year-old Cleveland Clinic, with a $6 billion annual budget and about 44,000 employees, is one of the nation’s foremost medical research centers and one of the most respected health-care providers in the country. Its hallmark is excellent, coordinated care with a special focus on patient satisfaction – and that includes about 1 million same-day appointments each year

When Cosgrove took leadership of the clinic in 2004, it had notoriously low patient satisfaction rating despite delivering excellent care. Clinic leadership, in an October 2013 interview, detailed the steps it took to boost patient-satisfaction scores. Namely, the clinic created an online portal to allow patients to schedule appointment, expanded access to electronic medical records and made it easier for patients to communicate electronically with doctors. In all, it spent about $300 million on electronic record systems in the past decade, Cosgrove estimated in a 2012 Washington Post interview.

The clinic’s cardiac unit has been ranked tops in the country each year since 1994 by the U.S. News & World Report. The publication named it the fourth-best hospital in the country in its 2013 rankings, and many of its care units ranked in the top 10 nationally. It's also known for performing the world's first face transplant about six years ago.

Unsurprisingly, the clinic has a strong connection to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul. Obama visited the clinic in 2009, citing it as a model for health-care delivery as he tried to build support for what would eventually become the Affordable Care Act less than a year later.

The clinic, though, hasn’t been immune to the ACA’s effects. This past September, the clinic announced it would cut jobs and trim 5 to 6 percent of its budget, partly due to lowered federal reimbursements under the health-care law.

Jason Millman covers all things health policy, with a focus on Obamacare implementation. He previously covered health policy for Politico.



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