RWJF’s Flip The Clinic wants to take the frustration out of the standard doctor visit

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is hoping that many “small flips” can build to a big flip and change the culture of healthcare.

Its latest project – Flip the Clinic – launches today and is meant to redesign the average doctor visit to make it satisfying instead of frustrating.

Flip the Clinic is similar to Flip the Classroom where lessons are watched at home and then discussed in the classroom. Flip the Clinic is meant to make the time doctors and patients spend together in the same room more valuable – less lecture, more conversation.


The Big Flip involves shifting the common clinical experience from frustration, anger, and miscommunication to trust, common understanding, and enjoyment. To accomplish this, patients are being asked to help redesign the doctor visit by sharing ideas and comments on the Flip The Clinic web site.

Think of it like Epicurious, the app for foodies and newbie cooks alike. A recipe is provided, users rate the recipe, and amendments are made and noted on the recipe page.

The site and its discussions will build new patient-doctor networks to share knowledge and terminology and to discuss ideas. These “small flips” will be tested in actual doctor visits. Results of these experiments will be discussed on the Flip the Clinic site. Indeed, this project’s success depends completely on people building upon or rejecting ideas shared in this forum.

Most RWJF initiatives involve internal discussions amongst experts and professionals in the field. With this effort, it’s all happening in the public space, with total transparency.

According to Mike Painter, Senior Program Officer at RWJF, the idea was to create a digital platform where no single vision for what the process or results would be. Rather, Flip the Clinic would provide the space for open exploration of a conversation around bettering the patient-doctor relationship.

It seems a huge feat, but the timing might just be perfect for Flip the Clinic. There are big movements underway to shift from hierarchical clinician to patient approaches to patient-centric collaboratives. Patients are being asked to be more accountable for their health, and educate themselves about treatment options. Furthermore, patients are becoming more and more empowered by patient advocacy groups and community sites like PatientsLikeMe, a company also supported by RWJF to develop and deploy a platform for the development of measures of patient-reported outcomes that are meaningful to patients.

On a recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation First Friday Google+ Hangout (scroll down to watch the video, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, Executive Director of Digital Health at Seattle Children’s Hospital, discussed her work around improving patient-clinician interactions. She has changed patient-doctor communication with her use of social media to inform her patients of relevant and timely information between clinical visits. By using other communication channels, she is making it possible to focus more on the immediate needs of her patients during visits. Additionally, Dr. Swanson is setting an example for other doctors and hospital system to use new ideas and technology for patient-doctor communication.

Changing the culture a slow process, and so Flip the Clinic might get some heat for its lack of immediacy or definitive action plan. However, if you consider what the product is designed to do – incite conversation – it is already tremendously successful. Combining the traditional public forum with the Flip the Classroom format has an interesting potential to engage, educate, and inspire everyone to improve one of the most critical and traditional parts of the healthcare system: the clinical visit.