Mayo Clinic’s Chief Value Officer: ‘We just do what’s right for the patient’
Mayo Clinic is recognized for quality more often than any other healthcare organization. Although no single set of measures can perfectly represent healthcare quality, Mayo Clinic is proud to be top-ranked in more specialties than any other hospital and has been recognized as an Honor Roll member by U.S. News & World Report's 2023–2024 “Best Hospitals” rankings. Mayo Clinic ranked No. 1 in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida and is the top hospital in the Phoenix and Jacksonville metro areas.
Sean C. Dowdy, M.D., is the chief value officer at Mayo Clinic and the Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Associate Dean for Practice Transformation.
He leads the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, which brings together clinicians and scientists from across Mayo Clinic to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients. The goal of the center is to focus and coordinate resources to analyze, evaluate and implement care delivery models that improve value for patients.
Dr. Dowdy’s insights shed light on how quality serves as the foundation of Mayo Clinic’s approach, extending beyond patient care to include staff experience, health equity and the cost of care.
What does quality mean to you? How do you see it in the context of Mayo Clinic’s mission?
Quality is fundamental to everything we do at Mayo Clinic — not just the quality of care we deliver to patients but also patient safety and the patient care experience. That includes staff experience and staff safety, because if you have an engaged staff, patients receive better care. It includes healthcare equity, because when we’re providing care to all groups — including those most underserved — we’re achieving high-quality care. We also need to be sure that we're providing care that is high-value and accessible.
All those things are the bedrock of our mission, which is to inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient. They also support our primary value, because if we don't provide safe care that's reliably excellent, we're not putting the needs of our patients first.
How does the quality at Mayo Clinic impact patient care and experience?
Our patients expect and deserve the highest quality care, and they put a lot of trust in us. When I take a patient into an operating room, they're literally putting their life in the hands of the surgical team. If we lose that trust and we have preventable complications that occur, there's no denying that's going to impact the patient's experience.
Our multidisciplinary approach is one of the things I'm most proud of. Mayo Clinic is not just a comprehensive cancer center, we're not just a transplant center or cardiac center. We're all those things because you need all those things to take care of the whole patient.
We just do what's right for the patient, and that's very different than many other institutions.
It would be easy to rest on a top ranking. How does Mayo Clinic continuously improve?
We should be proud of our quality rankings and ratings. There are only three hospitals in the country that score in the top decile of what we consider to be the foremost public measures that assess quality, safety and experience. It's no coincidence that those three hospitals are Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Arizona and Florida. None of that is possible without the practice, the people on the front line delivering care to our patients.
But continuous improvement is just that — it's continuous. You may identify a great treatment for a specific condition, and a few years from now, it's going to be yesterday's news. I don't think we can ever be happy with the top ranking or a top rating. We always have to continuously improve for our patients.
We are partnering with the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, which addresses the most challenging problems in the practice, to create a science of quality program. With that program, we're exploring new ways of measuring quality that we believe accurately reflect everything we offer at Mayo Clinic.
No matter how we measure quality, I don't think it'll ever adequately represent the compassion, empathy or expertise of the care that Mayo Clinic staff delivers to our patients.
What challenges does Mayo Clinic face in continuing to provide high-quality care?
From a care delivery perspective, we have more challenges now than we ever have. Those challenges include recruiting and retaining staff — especially nurses. Nurses are responsible for the majority of the care we provide and our excellent patient experience. We also have economic pressures due to the growing complexity of care and the serious illnesses that our patients present with.
For all those reasons, diversifying revenue is extremely important. Half to two-thirds of hospitals in the United States are operating in a net loss. If Mayo Clinic were in that situation, we'd be extremely challenged to continue to transform our care models and develop new cures and treatments.
How does philanthropy to Mayo Clinic help to improve the quality of care for patients?
Philanthropy allows us to make big moves to invest in our ability to serve patients better in the future. It allows us to connect with more patients, develop more cures, transform our operations, and develop new care models to better serve our patients. We can't make those important investments without philanthropy.
But philanthropy is not a one-way street. It’s very meaningful for our benefactors to support Mayo Clinic’s mission. In many cases, it’s their way of saying “thank you” for the care that they received or that their loved ones received from Mayo Clinic. Giving back gives our benefactors the chance to be part of that journey of continuous improvement.
Our benefactors and our healthcare providers are both committed to solving healthcare’s most pressing challenges, so all patients benefit.