Innovative Healthcare: Unique Cleveland Clinic is ahead of its time

 04 Feb 2017 - 20:42

Innovative Healthcare: Unique Cleveland Clinic is ahead of its time

By Irfan Bukhari / The Peninsula

The multispecialty hospital — Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi — has all it needs to deliver high-quality healthcare services to patients visiting the facility not only from the UAE but more than 60 countries but its real success lies in its “patient first” philosophy. Cutting-edge technologies can save lives and cure complicated chronic disease provided that they are supported by relentless, sincere team of qualified physicians.

“All members of the hospital team and each and every cutting-edge technology available in the facility revolve around a patient,” says Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s network of world-class healthcare providers, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Mihaljevic was talking to a select group of media persons visiting the healthcare facility from the GCC countries.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements “unique to the regional population”.

“The most exciting thing about Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is not its wonderful structure (building) but its content, its people,” observed Mihaljevic. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has five Centres of Excellence in the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, and Respiratory & Critical Care. “We are number one heart hospital in the world for the last 23 years,” said Mihaljevic referring to Cleveland Clinic group.  

Other institutes include surgical subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anaesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, and Quality & Patient Safety. In all, more than 30 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.  

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 364 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. In VIP inpatient units, attached rooms are provided to attendants from the family.

Tomislav Mihaljevic


“Actually we are first truly American hospital outside of the United States,” the CEO said, adding that patients used to travel to the US for treatment ‘but we have brought the clinical care excellence to their doorstep’. He said that they were here to complement existing healthcare system as well as to cultivate a sustainable change in healthcare.

Group approach: At Cleveland Clinic, every patient is attended or treated by a group of physicians. “What is unique about Cleveland Clinic is the way we take care of a patient. We recognise that very many diseases today need a group approach and you have to have more than one doctor to take care of it,” Mihaljevic noted.

The hospital management feels proud over its cutting-edge technologies, advanced surgical procedures like robotic heart surgery, high quality healthcare delivery, digital integration and innovation but takes more pride when it reveals that they are the first who regularly publish hospital clinical results.      

“Cleveland Clinic is the first hospital in history that published its results and we are doing this for the last 25 years,” Mihaljevic said, adding its purpose was to ensure transparency.

Cleveland Clinic is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. “Around thirty percent doctors serving at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi have come from Cleveland, Ohio or have served there,” Mihaljevic said. He said any physician wanted to join Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi had to pass through around 30 interviews conducted both in the US and Abu Dhabi.

One mission, one name: Caregiver is the unique name given to all Cleveland Clinic employees. The term conveys that every member of the team contributes to the overall patient journey, regardless of whether they are patient-facing or not. Total clinical and non-clinical caregivers are more than 3,000 with 255 physicians.

The Clinic so far has completed more than 11,500 surgical and therapeutic procedures including complex and minimally-invasive such as:  robotically-assisted mitral valve repair,  robotic multi-vessel coronary artery bypass graft (open heart surgery), endoscopic colon tumor removal, endovascular neurological intervention, minimally-invasive laser vision correction, corneal transplant, peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM), image-guided video assisted thoracoscopy, electromagnetic navigation catheters for bronchoscopy and 24-hour epilepsy monitoring. 

More than users, innovators: “We are not only using innovations like implants, robots and other devices rather we are innovating how healthcare is delivered here at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi,” said Rakesh M. Suri, MD, Chief of Staff and Chief, Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery. He further told media persons that the hospital would soon launch robotic renal transplants.  

In January this year, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Healthpoint, both part of Mubadala’s network of world-class healthcare providers, performed two landmark surgeries in the field of pediatric eye care for the first time in Abu Dhabi, marking the beginning of a new era in ophthalmologic healthcare for the children of the nation.

The first surgical procedure involved glaucoma valve implantation in the affected eye of a 7-month-old Emirati patient suffering from an advanced secondary form of infantile glaucoma. The second procedure involved combined horizontal and vertical extraocular muscle surgery in both eyes of a 4-year-old Emirati patient with misaligned eyes since infancy.  

Prevention is better than cure: Following centuries’ old golden maxim, Cleveland Clinic is educating people on healthy habits and has waged an awareness war against tobacco. It is a smoke free campus and patients, visitors and staff are not allowed to smoke in hospital premises including on its grounds.

“There is a dire need to change people’s attitudes and we can prevent or reverse a number of diseases by quitting smoking and checking obesity,” said Dr Iyaad Hassan, Director Advance Practice further saying that Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi was set to start Tobacco Treatment Centre. “We welcomed 2017 with ‘New Year - New You’ slogan. We are educating people how to live a healthy, vibrant life with healthy lifestyle,” he added.


Among 262,000 appointments taken by patients, 5000 plus patients came from other countries. “Patients from more than 60 countries have visited the facility for treatment. They were not expatriates living here in the UAE rather they flied to Abu Dhabi just for treatment,” said the CEO.

Healthcare service providers always skate over thin ice as they may receive any critical patient any time therefore the whole delivery system demands a high speed. They say in skating over thin ice, our safety is our speed. To ensure impeccability in services, the most sophisticated digital and telecommunication systems are installed at the hospital connecting caregivers and ensuring rapid responses for life-saving and wellness of patients.  “The hospital is a digitally integrated organization. There are seven stages of digital integration. It is the first hospital in the UAE which achieved stage seven; there are only two hospitals in this region and four in Europe which have achieved stage seven so far,” the CEO said. He said that for delivering quality services, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi used to work in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic, Ohio.  

For future, Mihaljevic said, hospital’s ambitious plans primarily revolved around education, research and innovation. “We want to train doctors for their professional development.” He said Cleveland Clinic network wanted to become a leader in high quality hospital care. “After Abu Dhabi, we are soon launching a hospital in London,” he said.  

Last but not the least: The hospital kitchen run by seasoned chefs provides around 70 kinds of diet for the patients and staff round the clock. “Our kitchen has no deep frying devices and two things we use but very economically are salt and sugar,” said  Patrick Bischoff, Head Chef and Production Quality Manager at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, adding: “Hospital’s dedicated food services team provides an innovative service that customises each patient’s meal plan according to their individual health needs.”