“Flip the Clinic” to Make Doctor–Patient Interactions More Productive, Less Stressful

By Jennifer J. Salopek

fliptheclinic_logo-01In late March, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a new initiative, Flip the Clinic, to re-imagine the medical encounter between patients and care providers. The seed of the inspiration was planted during a visit to RWJF’s offices by Khan Academy founder Sal Khan, says Senior Program Officer Michael Painter, which coincided with the first day on the job of Entrepreneur in Residence Thomas Goetz, former executive editor of Wired magazine.

“There’s such dissatisfaction on both sides of clinical interactions,” Painter says. “Patients are unhappy, but professionals are unhappy and frustrated too. We wondered, Why not flip the doctor’s office? And focus on that intensely powerful relationship and the healing process. I think it’s an idea that’s quite innovative.”

Key to the effort are the website and online community the initiative’s leaders have built. It posits the reasons for flipping the clinic, such as, “Because new tools, technologies, and strategies will help us get more out of a 15-minute visit;” “Because the clinic should be a more nurturing place for patients;” “Because providers would like to find more joy in their practice;” and “Because our health depends on it.” Organizations are invited to become “Flip Allies” by declaring their agreement with the FTC ideals; and visitors are invited to submit new flips—tools that patients and providers can use right now—and submit their answers to such open-ended questions as, “How do I learn what my patients’ lives are like outside of the clinic?”

Painter emphasizes that this isn’t an “adopt-and-push-down” initiative, but rather an effort to generate virtual conversation, and eventually to connect that virtual conversation with in-person meetings and tangible resources.

“FTC is about a definite mind shift. We want to orient care delivery toward a healing relationship that is joyful and happy,” he says. “We’re anxious to see whether we can go from where we are [with the website] to creating a truly collaborative community.”

Jennifer Salopek—Jennifer J. Salopek is founding editor of Wing of Zock. She can be reached at jsalopek@aamc.org. Follow her on Twitter @jsalopek.