When Cleveland Clinic London opened its 184-bed hospital at 33 Grosvenor Place last week, the health system completed a project nearly seven years in the making, and introduced Cleveland Clinic’s traditions of physician leadership and commitments to research, education, and advanced techniques and technologies to the U.K. private market.
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Bringing Cleveland Clinic to London has involved far more than building the hospital and turning on the lights, and Will Rowberry has played a key role during the development of the project. Rowberry initially was hired as a London-based healthcare consultant to help guide market strategy. In 2018, he joined the team full time as Cleveland Clinic London’s Chief Commercial Officer.
The expansion of Cleveland Clinic’s footprint requires thoughtful navigation and consideration of nuance, Rowberry says.
“A private hospital of this scale hasn’t come into the U.K. market for about 30 years, which of course brings challenges but immense opportunities,” he says. “It’s a very competitive market. There are strong incumbent providers, and a lot of the provision in this country — around 80% to 85% — is the public health service.”
Among the most important questions were how Cleveland Clinic would integrate into the existing landscape and how it would enhance healthcare offerings, not just for those who live in London, but for those who travel internationally for their care. “We are doing something of significant scale, and the amount of attention is seismic,” he says.
A focus on heart and vascular, neurology, digestion and orthopedics
In September 2021, Cleveland Clinic opened its Portland Place Outpatient Centre at 24 Portland Place in the Harley Street Medical Area. The six-story building has 17 consultation rooms where patients receive services that include health screenings, imaging, sports medicine and more.
Opening of the inpatient hospital, which was delayed slightly because of supply chain and workforce challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, brings expertise and services for high acuity patients, with a focus on heart, vascular and thoracic health, neurology, digestive disease, and orthopedics.
All along, the plan has been to combine the best of U.K. healthcare with Cleveland Clinic’s approach and values, Rowberry says. In important ways, those things dovetail, he adds, particularly with regard to Cleveland Clinic’s not-for-profit mission.
“We will reinvest any surplus into research and education, and people can see how what we are doing will have a wider benefit,” Rowberry says. “We’re also setting a standard of transparency in the market, which we believe can only improve healthcare overall.”
The model of care translates well to the established healthcare culture in the U.K., Rowberry adds.
“You’ve got a 100-year history of an organization that you’re translating into a new city, but all the values stand us in good stead: the patient-first ethos, the focus on quality and safety, and the commitment to transparency,” Rowberry says.
The challenge of building the workforce
Recruitment of caregivers has been an important piece of the expansion.
“We’ll be a mixed model from the outset,” Rowberry says. “A majority of consultants (physicians) will be employed solely by Cleveland Clinic London for their private work, but they will be encouraged to retain their NHS practice. Traditionally, many consultants have worked across multiple different private providers. We believe that by only practicing private just to work at Cleveland Clinic London it will encourage greater teamwork and allow us to build a unique culture in London.”
As in the United States, nurse recruitment in the U.K. has been complicated by worldwide nursing shortages as well as contract or travel companies that pay premiums to nurses who take temporary assignments in hospitals to cover staff shortages, patient surges, or both.
“The challenge for us is to make sure that our model is attractive in terms of development and the overall environment in which people are delivering care,” Rowberry says. “It’s important that they want to be a part of the broader organization. With Cleveland Clinic, they can be part of an organization that provides very focused career progression for all caregivers, alongside our patients first culture.”
The introduction of electronic medical records
Technologically, the expansion represents an important investment in digital infrastructure, Rowberry says. The introduction of electronic medical records will allow people to navigate care globally. It’s standard procedure at Cleveland Clinic domestically, but is not common in the U.K. market.
There are also local regulatory and insurance details that must be adapted for the U.K. market as well as for medical tourism.
“There are aspects of Cleveland Clinic that translate very well in the global market, but the real key is to have a balance that also reflects the specific market,” Rowberry say. “This is what’s been very deliberately done – to have the culture and DNA of Cleveland Clinic come across to the U.K., but be really mindful of local conditions. “
To succeed at that, it has been important to have a diversity of voices, including local experts and champions of Cleveland Clinic culture “to make sure you get the right blend,” he says.
“You can’t just import the U.S. model without considering local ways of working. It sounds obvious, but I think sometimes in global expansion, people overlook that,” Rowberry says. “Healthcare is such a complex industry. You really have to get the fine detail right and understand the market you’re working in, and Cleveland Clinic has the experience of doing that successfully through its expansions into Canada, Abu Dhabi, Florida and now London.”