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Dr Brian Mullen Discusses Patient Feedback on Second Opinions by The Clinic


Brian Mullen, PhD, head of innovation and product at The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic, discusses how providing second opinions has improved patient and provider experiences in health care.

The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic offers to patients a virtual second opinion, which can be extremely valuable for those facing a diagnosis of a serious condition, in need of a serious surgical procedure, considering a possibly risky treatment, experiencing a deteriorating condition, or struggling with a medical challenge.

Maintaining the same quality of care and human empathy is important to patients when receiving a virtual second opinion, says Brian Mullen, PhD, head of innovation and product, The Clinic by Cleveland Clinic.

This transcript has been lightly edited.


What feedback have you received from patients about their experiences with your digital health services?

We survey all our patients; we offer them a survey to provide that feedback. So, this is a great question. It's something that we watch a lot and pay attention to. One of the key things that comes up consistently is how great the experience is, especially with our care team, the nurses, care coordinators, and others that participate in providing and delivering that care, as well as the quality of the providers in their opinions that they deliver. Health care is human and that's a really important thing. We see that in that feedback, where the human touch that we provide along the way really is something that the patients tend to respond back to in our surveys. The other thing is the ease of use. So, the fact that they don't have to get their medical records is another high level and another trend that we see consistently in our data from our surveys.

Can you share any insights or lessons learned from your experience at the clinic regarding digital health services that could be valuable to the broader health care community?

I think one thing that we learned (and it goes back to probably a third thread here) is kind of thinking about the whole experience for the patient. But I've talked a lot about the patient. But one of the things here is we think a lot about the experience for the patient, the providers, and our team, so that it’s easy for the patient, but it has to also be easy for the providers.

The providers love to do our second opinions and that’s another bit of feedback we get from them. They're really happy, they like to go out and have the impact that they can for people that are in a really challenging medical moment and help them through that by providing them the best insight that they can in having access to the quality of their specialty that they can provide. So having the right balance to make sure it's easy for the patient and a great experience for the patient, as well as an easy experience for the providers involved is important. That's a key lesson that we have.

The other side of this is how do we make it also really human? How do we have those right human touches? So, the digital background, the backbone of it is to make sure it's easy and leverage the digital tools, but where's the right moment to have a digital interaction and an additional experience? And then ultimately, always remember the impact that you can have or are having. And I'll leave it with a little anecdote. One story that recently, some press has picked up, is there was a patient that came through and their primary diagnosis was that they would need a heart transplant. And obviously a major medical decision had to be made there. And they reached out and they had a second opinion through our program. And in that, Cleveland Clinic had been ranked number one in cardiology for 20 years now. So, we will match them with a specialist out of that second opinion. The provider recommended a different core treatment plan for them, but they didn't require a heart transplant. And that's life changing in so many ways. So really understanding the impact that we can have and how we deliver that. So again, that provider and that patient could connect in an easy way for both of them is, I think, one of the most important things that I try to focus on every day.

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