How Cleveland Clinic is Leveraging Data and Empathy to Change Healthcare

March 12, 2020


Founded almost 100 years ago, the mission of the Cleveland Clinic was very simple: “care for the sick, investigate their problems, and educate those who serve.” While this mission remains the same today, the U.S. healthcare industry itself has changed significantly.

Healthcare costs in the U.S. have grown at an unsustainable rate over the last 40 years, with expenditures now well over $3.5 trillion, leading to important questions about how to measure the value of these expenditures.  The U.S. has 4 out of the top 10 ranked hospitals in the world and is a leader in the development of major medical breakthroughs while consistently performing poorly on commonly reported metrics on health outcomes related to the quality of primary care, infant mortality, and life expectancy.

Leading healthcare organizations like Cleveland Clinic, a Strata Decision Technology customer, are using their wealth of data and advanced analytics to combat these challenges and improve the overall health and well-being of their patients. Key leaders in finance and analytics at Cleveland Clinic recently visited Strata to speak with our team about how they will use data, analytics, and empathy to expand their mission.

Social determinants of health

With such a disconnect between how the U.S. spends and how we perform, leaders at the Cleveland Clinic are using data analytics to examine the impact of factors outside of the health system on a patient’s health. “We have to start thinking about these things holistically,” says Chris Donovan, Executive Director of Enterprise Analytics at Cleveland Clinic.

With over 4,200 physicians and 16,600 nurses serving in more than 18 hospitals located around the world, Cleveland Clinic has long been known as a top tier specialty-driven, acute care provider. In recent years, they have had to rethink how they deliver primary care for their patients.

With a renewed focus on social determinants of health, Donovan says hospitals need to rethink how they are providing their mix of services to best serve their communities. For example, while a nurse would not normally help a patient find a bus ride home, Donovan says, a social worker understands and routinely connects patients with community resources .

Reducing waste is the answer

For many hospitals and healthcare systems, investing in social programs and support can seem impossible. New care models are changing how hospitals function, with volumes declining and operating margins at historic lows. The U.S. healthcare system is already extraordinarily complex, but it is also extremely wasteful. Waste in U.S. healthcare has grown to an estimated $935 billion, with $266 billion attributed to administrative complexity. 1

One solution for hospitals lies in the opportunity to simplify an overly complex system and drive out that waste, Donovan says. To do this, navigating payer-provider relationships will be uniquely important moving forward. But hospitals will also need to rethink the relationship between front-line decision-makers and the systems they use.

Disruption is changing the healthcare experience

There is also new competition, not just from other existing health systems looking to merge or acquire, but from digital leaders entering the space to disrupt. Citing some of the key acquisitions from the last few years, Donovan added that the digital transition will rely on creating positive patient and provider experiences. “Electronic health records have already begun to erode the face-to-face relationship between patients and their doctors,” Donovan noted. While the process of upgrading health records has contributed to physician burnout, patients will continue to look for technology to play an important role in their healthcare interactions.

Data as a hospital’s biggest asset

In continuing to care for their patients, Cleveland Clinic is leveraging new capabilities and data to drive a better experience—and achieve their strategic goal of doubling the number of lives served by 2024. An important part of that journey will involve building infrastructure to support a focus on population health and understanding how Cleveland Clinic can better support patients across their lifetime care.

For leaders at Cleveland Clinic, this has meant resetting their systems infrastructure as part of a global business transformation. To heighten their enterprise analytics and financial planning, the organization has begun to focus on implementing automated, integrated solutions and seeking to form  true partnerships with select companies who sell those solutions.

“Data is so important,” says Michael Lewis, Senior Director, Healthcare Analytics. “You need to treat it like an asset.” Cleveland Clinic is using their data and predictive modeling to help decision-makers become more proactive. As the work of clinical, financial, and operational teams is converging, hospitals and healthcare systems like Cleveland Clinic will need data to build out and adhere to care paths, coordinate precise clinical care, and manage population health for their communities.

Using data to impact population health

Applying analytics to population health will be an important part of healthcare’s future. As the industry continues to shift and adapt, leaders will need to find ways to address those challenges. They will require strategic partnerships with technology partners, internal education, and new ways of thinking.

One example, Donovan cited, was using analytics to identify which patients would recover successfully at home following surgery. The Clinic developed an algorithm for knee and hip replacement recipients to determine the likelihood of them being able to go directly home instead of to an inpatient rehab facility after surgery. In order to understand this the Clinic combined traditional clinical data with survey data provided by the patients. Interestingly, they discovered that two important determinants for a patient’s post-surgery success were 1) whether the patient had a care partner at home to help with recovery and 2) whether the patient’s bedroom was on the ground floor.

This discovery led to changes in care , including a sort of “prehab”: planning with the patient to improve success in recovering at home after surgery.  For example, determining whether the patient could sleep on the first floor and reduce the stairs they had to climb after their surgery.

Creating true partnerships with technology solutions

As hospitals continue to take on new challenges in a changing environment, it will be important to leverage data in new, forward-thinking ways. For Cleveland Clinic, this means selecting key technology and analytics solutions—and treating the relationship like a true partnership.

A key part of the decision to invest in these relationships, Donovan says, came down to accessing the best practices of other organizations and learning alongside a trusted partner. Leaders at Cleveland Clinic say it is important to craft partnerships with vendors like Strata Decision Technology who are similarly focused on healthcare and who can be treated as partners, bringing ideas and brainstorming to each meeting.

At the end of the day, leaders in healthcare will continue to find new, inventive ways to leverage their data sources to drive better patient experiences and care. “Data will be the future,” Lewis says. For leading organizations like Cleveland Clinic, planning for that future will require strong analytics capabilities, an educated staff, and a level of empathy for patients and providers alike.

Learn more about the solutions and unique partnerships healthcare’s leaders are relying on to drive change and advance their organizations, and find out how your organization could leverage analytics, too.


1William H. Shrank, MD, MSHS; Teresa L. Rogstad, MPH; Natasha Parekh, MD,MS (2019).  Waste in the US Health Care System Estimated Costs and Potential for Savings. Journal of the American Medical Association, Online, pp. E1 – E9, doi:10.1001/jama.2019.13978