Why the CEO of Cleveland Clinic Embraced Functional Medicine

Episode 37 43m


Obesity and type 2 diabetes create trillions of dollars in direct and indirect healthcare costs each year, due to their high prevalence and their ability to promote a wide range of other chronic diseases. These diseases are perpetuated by subsidies of the wrong kinds of foods—like sugar and flour—making them cheaper and more widely available while creating a vicious cycle of poor health. It’s social detriments to health like this that support a sick-care system, as opposed to empowered wellness.

My guest on this week’s episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, shares his decades of experience in working to turn our healthcare system around for the better and change the future of medicine as we know it. Toby and I met at the World Economic Forum many years ago, when I jokingly asked how he would feel about emptying out his hospitals and cutting the angioplasties and bypasses at Cleveland Clinic in half using a systems-based approach. At that time, Dr. Cosgrove was the CEO and President of Cleveland Clinic; he later became my boss when I joined the Cleveland Clinic team.

Dr. Cosgrove joined Cleveland Clinic in 1975 and chaired the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular surgery from 1989 to 2004. Serving as CEO and President from 2004 through 2017, he led the $8 billion organization to new heights of achievement and efficiency, seeing it ranked the #2 hospital in America; he reorganized services, improved outcomes and patient experience, and strengthened the organization’s finances. He currently serves as Executive Advisor, working with Cleveland Clinic leadership on strategies for national and international growth. Dr. Cosgrove has performed over 22,000 operations and earned an international reputation in valve repair. He holds 30 patents for medical innovations.

Dr. Cosgrove believes medical and technological innovations are taking us to exciting places that will not only better assist physicians with managing an immense amount of data and knowledge but also create a system to help people stay well in the first place. Healthcare without walls—this is the future of medicine, and it’s becoming more of a reality every day. Throughout our conversation, you’ll hear that Dr. Cosgrove walks the talk. He removed fast food and soda from the Clinic and created a huge reduction in smoking throughout the staff. His incentives for employee disease management caused reductions in healthcare premiums with 20% less sick days as well as decreased ER visits and hospital admittance.

Dr. Cosgrove emphasizes the need for greater efficiency in the medical system and keeping people well in the first place. We talk about integrating diet and lifestyle changes into conventional healthcare, putting the wellbeing of the patient first, and how creating a team of caregivers breaks down hospital hierarchy, increasing the level of engagement from providers and the level of care patients receive.

We discuss all this and more in this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy, I hope you’ll tune in.

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Ep. 37 - Why the CEO of Cleveland Clinic Embraced Functional Medicine