Chief Experience Officer
James Merlino, M.D., is the Chief Experience Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Health System and is a practicing staff colorectal surgeon in the Digestive Disease Institute. He is also the founder and current president of the Association for Patient Experience. As a member of the Clinic’s executive team, he leads initiatives to improve the patient experience across the Cleveland Clinic Health System. In addition to his work in patient experience, he also leads efforts to improve referring physician relations and physician-patient communication. Partnering with key members of the Clinic leadership team, he helps to improve communication with physicians and employees and drive employee engagement strategies. Along with the Clinic CEO, he is co-chairperson of the Cleveland Clinic Diversity Council and also sits on the professional affairs committee. He is a recognized world leader in the emerging field of patient experience.
Dr. Merlino believes that all employees are caregivers and partners in delivering great patient care to positively affect the patient experience. He believes the guiding principle of "Patients First" requires more than world-class clinical care — it requires care that addresses every aspect of a patient’s encounter with Cleveland Clinic, including the patient’s physical comfort as well as educational, emotional, and spiritual needs. Ultimately, he believes "Patients First" is about treating your patients the way you would want your family members to be treated.
Prior to returning to the Clinic, Dr. Merlino practiced at one of the largest county hospitals in the US. There he was involved in several quality initiatives and served as the director of surgical quality. He was instrumental in implementing care paths for the management of complex colorectal surgery patients and advocated for the implementation of the American College of Surgeons NSQIP program to that hospital.
Dr. Merlino is certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery and the American Board of General Surgery, and he is a fellow of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Merlino received his undergraduate degree in business administration at Baldwin-Wallace College and his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He completed his residency training in general surgery at University Hospitals of Cleveland and his fellowship in colorectal surgery at Cleveland Clinic. During his residency, he took a two-year research sabbatical to complete an AHRQ-funded research fellowship in health services research. Prior to attending medical school, he worked in public service and served as a trustee of a large community hospital.