6 thoughts on healthcare by outgoing Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove

After 13 years at the helm of Cleveland Clinic, President and CEO Toby Cosgrove, MD, will retire from his position at the end of the year.

Dr. Cosgrove, who announced his retirement in May, said at the time "[it was] an honor and a privilege to be a part of an extraordinary and forward-thinking organization that puts patients at the center of everything we do."

To commemorate his time at the health system, Becker's Hospital Review takes a look at how Dr. Cosgrove's leadership and ingenuity catapulted the system into one of the nation's best hospitals and how he continually advocated for his patients, in both the public and private spheres.

1. In his annual "State of the Clinic" address in February, Dr. Cosgrove acknowledged a plethora of challenges Cleveland Clinic and the healthcare industry at large would face during the coming year. Among the most pressing issues were the rising cost of prescription drugs, the rise in Medicare and Medicaid patients, and hospital payment reform.

2. According to Dr. Cosgrove, effective healthcare leadership incorporates four qualities: the ability to lead through change, maintain one's integrity, foster teamwork and create a learning environment. "Each of us needs to inspire and uplift our teams with a commitment to their professional growth and development," he wrote in a LinkedIn post. "We set the example for lifelong learning by continuing to grow into our own leadership roles."

3. Medical innovation will come to the forefront of healthcare during the next few years, Dr. Cosgrove wrote in a LinkedIn post. "The benefits of this process extend well beyond the traditional technology hubs of the east and west coasts, to the states and cities in between. Medical innovation is leading an industrial renaissance that has the potential to revitalize cities, create jobs and improve patient care across the board," he wrote.

4. As part of his efforts to make diversity and inclusion an integral part of Cleveland Clinic culture, Dr. Cosgrove was one of many CEOs across various industries to sign the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion pledge in July.

"By 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the U.S. as traditionally underrepresented groups become the majority," Dr. Cosgrove wrote in a LinkedIn post. "That's the practical explanation for businesses to get involved. As importantly, though, workplace diversity — of race, gender, nationality, religion, age or sexual orientation, among many other factors — creates a better, more equitable work environment with a greater depth of ideas, creativity and innovation."

5. "I think as [the industry transitions] we're going to see the quality improve, we're going to see the cost come down, and hopefully that will allow us to look after more and more people across the United States. But this is an enormous transition; we've been at it now nine years, and we're just beginning to see the effects of this," Dr. Cosgrove said during an October panel with CMS Administrator Seema Verma, regarding the industry's path toward value-based care.

6. In an opinion piece for the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Cosgrove wrote physicians have a key role in minimizing the effect of the opioid epidemic, and outlined four strategies providers can take to mitigate the spread of opioids.

"One of the most sobering statistics, from a physician's point of view, is that over 75 percent of opioid and heroin deaths begin with a prescription pain killer. The healthcare industry bears some responsibility. That's not to say that patients aren't in legitimate pain. They are, maybe as many as 100 million by some estimates. But we as healthcare providers have to approach pain differently, smarter," he wrote.

Dr. Cosgrove continued, stating providers can "attack the opioid epidemic in four ways: giving healthcare providers the prescribing tools and resources they need; insisting on team engagement among hospital departments; tracking prescribing data and demanding accountability; and sharing information with other hospitals in the region."

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