James Merlino, MD

President and Chief Medical Officer, Strategic Consulting

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 as president and chief medical officer of the strategic consulting division in 2015. As an accomplished surgeon and industry leader in improving the patient experience, Jim draws from more than two decades of health care experience to oversee Press Ganey’s consultancy division. Under his leadership, the consultancy team helps providers improve the delivery of safe, high-quality care in a patient-centered environment.

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 list of “20 people who make healthcare better.” He has been widely published in academic papers, and in 2014, released his first book, Service Fanatics: How to Build Superior Patient Experience the Cleveland Clinic Way.


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, improve patient access and referring physician relations. He 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 NSQIP program to the organization.

Jim is actively involved in many industry organizations and non-profits 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.

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. Board certified in general and colorectal surgery, 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
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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