Expanding Network Connectivity Brings New Possibilities to Cleveland Clinic Mentor Hospital

Enhanced digital connectivity at Cleveland Clinic’s newest facility unlocks the potential for more personalized, interactive patient care

Shibu Thomas sees a digital landscape that’s full of potential. 

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“Healthcare technology is at a transformative juncture for digital innovation through improved connectivity,” says Thomas, Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Technology Officer.

Thomas leads the digital teams responsible for the organization’s foundational digital platforms, devices and in-building technologies. He also oversees the health system’s network infrastructure to monitor and ensure that there’s effective communication and functionality among all the interconnected components.

“A network infrastructure is similar to the body’s central nervous system. It’s a signal processing center that enables seamless, integrated connectivity between devices and system platforms without disruptions,” explains Thomas. “Network connectivity isn’t new, but there’s always a push for expanding it to improve patient care.”  

Leaning on partners expands possibilities

Digital maturity tends to lag in healthcare technology. But, as healthcare technology advances, Thomas sees a growing need for external partnerships with stakeholders who share a vested interest in using digital connectivity to improve the patient experience and boost caregiver efficiency.

“From my experience, device manufacturers and medical technology providers are looking for innovative partners willing to invest the time and resources to envision the hospital and patient experience of the future, not merely focusing on today. That’s our mindset,” says Thomas.

He continues, “Drawing insights from other industries helps us develop a vision that will enhance both the patient and caregiver experience. A future where patients experience a customized stay with personalized and interactive functionality is on the horizon. Patients increasingly expect these interactions, and we’re at the forefront of exploring those possibilities.”

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Building better connectivity

After 25 years in the healthcare information technology industry, Thomas is venturing into new territory with the construction of Cleveland Clinic’s newest hospital, Mentor Hospital, a location of Hillcrest Hospital, which opens this summer.

“Typically, a standard technology build is applied to new construction. That perspective is shifting through Cleveland Clinic’s partnership with Verizon to install private 5G technology, a secure alternative to WiFi, at this new location,” says Thomas.

The faster speed, lower latency and higher bandwidth of 5G allows greater flexibility in wireless connectivity. Currently, Cleveland Clinic is one of the first healthcare systems in the country to install Verizon’s private 5G technology.

“The new facility is an incubation site for possibilities. It’s a platform where we will partner with industry leaders to develop innovative approaches to healthcare.” Thomas continues, “This will serve as the proving ground to demonstrate the potential, necessity and demand for new functionality.”

Pursuing possibilities

Integrating private 5G into healthcare’s digital landscape unlocks the potential for increased customization.

“There’s a continued acceleration for everything becoming a connected device. We believe that 5G can help get us there.” Thomas adds, “The heavy lifting lies in proving the technology’s value and necessity, and our partnership with Verizon allows us to pursue transformative opportunities limited by current capabilities.”

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Caregiver partnerships are equally important. A workshop is planned with clinical and operational teams to discuss the advanced technology and how it could improve their workflows and address challenges.

Thomas explains, “Their input is crucial in tailoring the technology to their needs. It’s also imperative to support their understanding of the new technology, its capabilities and to encourage their partnership for innovation.”

For Thomas, improved connectivity will help create a unified experience for patients and caregivers.

“A symphony of events unfold with a comprehensive, integrated infrastructure.” Thomas continues, “Building on these capabilities leads to a seamless experience for our patients and less disruption for our caregivers. We’ll continue pushing for innovative solutions to deliver exceptional service and care.”