7 thoughts on bringing 'heart' into IT from Cleveland Clinic CIO Edward Marx

Edward Marx, CIO of Cleveland Clinic, kicked off Becker's Hospital Review's 3rd Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference in Chicago with a keynote address emphasizing the importance of inspiring empathy in your team Sept. 21.

He opened his speech with a video that described a woman being told she has cancer, a physician learning he will be a father and a patient learning to walk again — but concerned how he will pay for care. A number of similar examples flashed on screen to help the audience stand in a patient's shoes; to feel what they feel.

"You might be thinking: What's the relevance — why would we think about empathy? Is it important to what we do? I would tell you it's foundational," Mr. Marx said. "It doesn't come down to all the resources, it comes down to the heart ... When people have heart and they are engaged, it makes an amazing difference."

Here are seven key thoughts Mr. Marx shared during his keynote address.

On the "rhythm section" in healthcare

"I always tell people it's all about the team. I am a very average person — very average — but when I surround myself with an amazing team, we have had above average results," Mr. Marx said. "If we think of iconic bands that have withstood the test of time ... like The Rolling Stones ... everyone thinks [it's] Mick Jagger [that makes them successful] ... but he says 'No, no, no, it's my rhythm section that makes The Stones successful' ... And that's what it is when you reference the heart. Our caregivers are out there in front but if we don't have the heart, if we don't have the rhythm section, there's no success."

On being an inspirational leader

"It's about purpose and instilling that purpose ... My hope is that I never talk to one of my teammates and they tell me that they are a network engineer. My hope is that I never talk to someone and they tell me that they are a database administrator because part of our job as leaders and softening the hearts of our teams is making it much more inspirational."

On being passionate in your career

"If you don't have passion, no one wants to really follow you. It doesn't matter where your passion is ... as long as it stirs your heart. You need to train yourself to get passionate for what you do everyday ... [When] people ask me 'what do I do?' I save lives."

On getting out of the office

"What happens when you're visible and you walk the halls of your clinics is your heart starts to change. You realize that these people don't want to be here and [your] job is to help them get out as quickly and safely and with the highest-quality of care as possible ... So you have to see patients ... you've got to get out there and be visible and be bold and take risks."

On transforming IT workers into caregivers

"A program that I do everywhere I go ... is every person in IT spends a day with a clinician ... this changes people's' lives ... by the end of that [they] become caregivers and [they] become engaged. That's how you get these amazing outcomes to help our patients."

On building customer engagement

"A lot of time we jump to the customers ... It really is important to get out there and know or understand the customers, but if you don't have the heart foundation, it's not going to be as effective. If you get your heart right and keep it soft routinely, and your team gets it and they keep their hearts soft routinely, now you can have that much more impact with customers."

On being honest with your team

"We often hide behind masks, we don't want to be transparent, we don't want to be vulnerable, but if you don't show vulnerability, you keep putting up a mask, your heart is going to have a hard time opening up to those you serve [and] your team. It's very difficult and it's very risky, but you have to take off your mask ... You [have] to be willing to take risks and that is the first step."

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