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PESummit Day 2 – Being Vulnerable Opens Us to Deeper Connections

Posted on June 19, 2018 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Whether it was planned or by cosmic happenstance, Day 2 of the 2018 Patient Experience: Empathy and Innovation Summit (#PESummit) reinforced a theme from the prior day:

  • Making yourself vulnerable opens us up to deeper connections with others

On Day 1, Cleveland Clinic President and CEO, Tomislav Mihaljevic MD @TomMihaljevicMD shared a story of a patient that died in the OR (see my Day 1 summary for details). It was a very personal story. By sharing it Mihaljevic made himself vulnerable and instantly forged a connection with the thousands of attendees in the hall.

Most people find it difficult to share stories that make them uncomfortable – especially ones where we are at the center of the story. We don’t like to talk about our fears, our failures or our losses because we are afraid of what other people may think (which is another way of saying that we fear that we will be rejected). Yet paradoxically by making ourselves vulnerable in this way, we actually make it easier for others to connect with us. Adrienne Boissy @boissyad, Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic stated exactly that after Mihalijevic shared his story.

Day 2’s opening keynote speaker, Kelsey Crowe PhD, founder of Help Each Other Out, articulated how the fear of being a burden or being seen as needy, holds patients back from asking for help. In other words, its hard for patients to admit to being vulnerable:

Crowe went on to share how small gestures of kindness and empathy, made at the times of vulnerability made a tremendous difference in their care. A unique “gesture wall” that she deployed at a healthcare facility allowed patients to capture these wonderful moments for staff to read.

This theme of being open, honest and vulnerable as a way to connect with people was reinforced by the next keynote speaker, Michael Hebb, founder of Deathoverdinner.org, and Drugsoverdinner.org.

In fact, Hebb’s entire keynote featured story after story about how sharing the fears about the end-of-life opened up the conversation, providing families and loved ones with the chance to better connect.

Vulnerability was also featured by Day 2’s closing keynotes: Brennan Spiegel MD @BrennanSpiegel, Director of Health Services Research, Cedars-Sinai Health System and Zubin Damania MD @ZDoggMD

At the end of Brennan’s fascinating presentation on the clinical application for an efficacy of Virtual Reality, he shared a failure that counterbalanced the exceedingly positive stories that he had showed the audience. Like Mihaljevic, talking about a failure helped the audience connect with Brennan and the patient that had suffered a panic attack as a result of the VR simulation.

Vulnerability was also featured by Day 2’s closing keynotes: Brennan Spiegel MD @BrennanSpiegel, Director of Health Services Research, Cedars-Sinai Health System and Zubin Damania MD @ZDoggMD

At the end of Brennan’s fascinating presentation on the clinical application for an efficacy of Virtual Reality, he shared a failure that counterbalanced the exceedingly positive stories that he had showed the audience. Like Mihaljevic, talking about a failure helped the audience connect with Brennan and the patient that had suffered a panic attack as a result of the VR simulation.

As is normal for Damania (aka ZDoggMD), his session was energizing and entertaining. However, in the midst of live renditions of his favorite medical rap parodies and fun stories of his parents, Damania shared the story of Turntable Health – the novel practice he was forced to close in early 2017. “No one was more pissed off about it than me.” said Damania.

By sharing this painful part of his journey, Damania made himself vulnerable and judging by the body language, many in the audience could relate to his do-everything-right-yet-still-not-work-out feelings. That story gave context to Damania’s impassioned plee to join him in ushering in Health 3.0 – a vision for care partly based on the best parts of his Turntable Health experience.

Day 2 of PESummit even better than Day 1. I can’t wait for the final day tomorrow. Follow the conference hashtag – #PESummit for real-time updates!

PESummit Day 1 – Empathy is Hot in Cleveland

Posted on I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

With the mercury hitting an incredible 90+ in downtown Cleveland, it was only fitting that the speakers and attendees at the 2018 Patient Experience: Empathy and Innovation Summit (#PESummit) turned up the heat on the passion for more empathy in healthcare WITHOUT a corresponding increase in burnout.

Day 1 at PESummit kicked off with Cleveland Clinic’s dynamic duo of Adrienne Boissy @boissyad, Chief Experience Officer and K. Kelly Hancock @kkellyhancock, Executive Chief Nursing Officer. Boissy issued a challenge to the audience in her opening:

They were followed by Cleveland Clinic President and CEO, Tomislav Mihaljevic MD @TomMihaljevicMD who shared a number of things that we could each do to increase empathy in our daily work. The clear favorite was eating lunch with someone you don’t know, and get to know them:


But the most poignant part of Mihaljevic’s time on stage came when he shared a failure from his past – the time he lost a patient in the OR. He spoke about how he and his team was unable to repair the damage to a patient’s heart and how devastated the team was when despite their best effort, the patient died. As the leader Mihaljevic held himself accountable and not only did he have to support the patient’s family in dealing with their loss, he had to help his own team deal with the death as well.

It was a pleasant surprise to hear Mihaljevic talk about the feelings he had in the moment and how he learned lessons that he carries with him today.

The highlight of the breakout sessions was the panel discussion on “When Patient and Healthcare Innovation Meet” that featured Grace Cordovano @GraceCordovano, Julie Rish @julie_rish, Christine Traul MD @traulc and Michael Seres @mjseres.


My favorite was Cordovano’s tip for patients to go into the doctor appointments PREPARED – with questions they are seeking answers to.

Day 1 ended with Thomas H Lee MD @ThomasHLeeMD, CMO of Press Ganey talking about “grit” (aka resilience) at the individual and team levels.


Lee’s most provocative statement was when he cited his research that found that it is ineffective to use financial incentives to motivate behavior that is inherently non-financial in nature. This punched a hole through the concept of paying people to sleep more than 7 hours that was mentioned by one of the morning keynotes and other gamification techniques that have become popular over the past few years.

Day 1 at PESummit was fantastic and I’m looking forward to a equally great Day 2. Follow along on Twitter #PESummit