James Merlino, MD

Chief Transformation Officer

The most important objective in health care is to reduce patient and caregiver suffering. The only w​ay to successfully accomplish that goal is to understand the critical interdependency of safety, quality, and the experience of care. Patient-centricity is more than a slogan on the wall, it must be ingrained in everything we do.

Professional Biography

Dr. James Merlino joined Press Ganey in 2015 as president and chief medical officer of the Strategic Consulting Division. In 2018, he assumed the expanded role of chief transformation officer to ensure that Press Ganey’s solutions align with current and future industry needs. In this capacity, he oversees the creation and delivery of individualized plans to help clients achieve transformational and sustainable improvement.

An accomplished surgeon and industry leader in improving the patient experience, Jim has played a critical role in shaping Press Ganey’s strategic direction. Under his leadership, the Press Ganey Strategic Consulting Division has experienced rapid growth, both in the number of consultants serving the company’s health care clients and in the breadth and depth of services they are able provide. In 2017, they were named one of the fastest growing consulting groups in the United States by Consulting Magazine.

Prior to joining Press Ganey, Jim served as chief experience officer and associate chief of staff at the Cleveland Clinic health system, as well as a practicing staff colorectal surgeon at the organization’s Digestive Disease Institute. At Cleveland Clinic, Jim was responsible for leading strategic programs to improve the patient experience across the system. He spearheaded numerous groundbreaking initiatives to ensure the highest standards for patient care as well as to improve patient access and referring physician relations. He also championed organizational cultural alignment around the patient as a key component of patient-centered care.



Previously, Jim practiced at the MetroHealth System, one of the largest safety-net hospitals in the country. There, he was involved in several quality initiatives, including implementing care paths for the management of complex colorectal surgery patients and advocating for the implementation of the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program.®

Jim is actively involved in many industry organizations and nonprofits dedicated to improving patient care. He is the founder and current president of the Association for Patient Experience, a nonprofit organization committed to enhancing the clinical, physical and emotional health care environment. Jim is also a founding executive council member of the Institute for Innovation, a nonprofit research collaborative dedicated to advancing the science of improving patient care and performance.

Recognized as an expert in improving the patient experience, Jim is frequently invited to speak on strategies to redefine care around the needs of the patient, and has developed and led patient experience programming around the world. In 2013, Jim was named to HealthLeaders magazine’s HealthLeaders 20, its list of 20 people making a difference in health care, and was recognized as one of Becker’s Healthcare’s 50 Experts Leading the Field of Patient Safety in 2015 and 2016. He has been widely published in academic journals, and in 2014 he released his first book, Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way.

Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Baldwin-Wallace College and a medical degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.  Jim completed his general surgery training at University Hospitals of Cleveland and his colorectal surgery fellowship at Cleveland Clinic. During his residency, he took a two-year research sabbatical to complete an AHRQ-funded research fellowship in Health Services Research. He lives in Richfield, Ohio, with his wife, Dr. Amy Merlino, who is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic. 


Dr. Jim Merlino, Press Ganey


As an accomplished surgeon and industry leader in improving the patient experience, Dr. James Merlino draws from more than two decades of health care experience to address key issues like eliminating harm, enhancing quality, promoting cultural alignment and improving operational efficiencies.
Speaking Topics
  • Change management
  • Culture
  • Employee and Physician Engagement
  • Leadership Strategy
  • Patient and Family Centered Care
  • Patient Engagement
  • Physician Engagement
  • Safety and High Reliability
  • The Role of the CXO
Selected Articles & Publications
Customer Service In Healthcare: The Paradox Of Patient Satisfaction And Patient Experience ​(​Forbes, ​by Micah Solomon, 5/11/17) 

Hospitalists: 'I Don't Get No Respect' (MedScape, by Shelly Reese, 8/30/16)

How a Cultural Transformation Can Advance Patient Safety (RevCycle Intelligence, ​by Jacqueline DiChiara, 1​2/4/15)

Reducing Serious Safety Events: A Critical Dimension of the Patient Experience (Press Ganey, by James Merlino and Gary Yates, 11/10/15)

Service Fantatics; How to Build a Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way (McGraw Hill,  ​by James Merlino, 01/2015)

Recent & Upcoming Engagements
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