Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is setting a new standard for healthcare design and delivery, as Suhail Mahmood Al Ansari, executive director of Mubadala Healthcare, and Dr Marc Harrison, chief executive officer of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, explain to Richard Halfhide.


Abu Dhabi is a thriving emirate, one that has witnessed a dramatic increase in economic development, diversity and population in recent years. In the past, healthcare investment has occasionally struggled to keep pace with such accelerated social and economic change; but times are changing rapidly.

The government of Abu Dhabi recognised the need to put in place a long-term plan to provide quality healthcare for all citizens by 2030, and aspart of this vision, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) was created in 2007. To encourage the introduction of private sector healthcare providers, many existing facilities were outsourced to leading clinical operators around the world to operate and manage; and a mandatory employer-funded health insurance scheme was also launched. The initiative created an opportunity for Mubadala Healthcare, a government-owned investment and development company, to take this process one step further and form a partnership with Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, one of the world’s most respected healthcare institutions.

Together, Mubadala Healthcare and Cleveland Clinic are the driving force behind Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD), a brand new world-class hospital that will offer first grade health services to its patients as well as a state-of-the-art facility for what CCAD’s CEO Dr Marc Harrison and Mubadala Healthcare’s executive director Suhail Mahmood Al Ansari define as ‘top talent’ to work in.

In its primary role as investor in CCAD, Mubadala has many key objectives; but for Al Ansari, there are two crucial bottom lines: “Number one, whatever we invest in has to be financially sustainable, including creating an integrated health system,” he states. “Secondly, socio-economic impact is extremely important to us. By virtue of developing a quality healthcare facility which gives patients access to excellent medical care close to home, we are additionally creating many job opportunities for UAE nationals. By attracting professionals from all over the world to work at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, we hope to be able to foster a transfer of knowledge ethos.”

By bringing a standard of care and service to Abu Dhabi that was simply not available in the past, CCAD hopes to significantly contribute towards the improvement of the local healthcare landscape. From the outset, one of the most crucial mandates for Mubadala was to tackle the fact that it has become the norm for citizens of Abu Dhabi to address their healthcare needs overseas—with Germany, the US and the UK being the main locations of choice. In fact, figures from the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD) show that nearly 3,000 people are currently travelling overseas for surgery each year. “A tremendous amount of patients, historically and today, still travel abroad for medical care. Part of the mandate is to reduce the need to travel and bring quality healthcare home,” confirms Al Ansari.

“When American and Western Eurpoean healthcare systems operate facilities overseas, they frequently bring in a couple of executives and run the hospital under the banner of the home institution,” confirms Harrison, who brings years of experience to his role both as a pediatric intensivist and an experienced senior executive at Cleveland Clinic. “But what Mubadala has encouraged us to do is bring in a broad swathe of talent—for example 80 per cent of our institute chairs are Cleveland Clinic people. So we’re bringing the real culture, operating capability and clinical talent here.”

The hospital itself is located on Sowwah Island in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s new central business district. The scale of the construction is matched only by the eye-catching design that will make the completed building a landmark in Abu Dhabi. Initially, the hospital will have 364 beds, but the design allows for further expansion to 490 in the future. Complexities within the design have produced a hospital that achieves simplicity for those that will walk its sleek, glass-lined hallways.

“No effort has been spared,” states Harrison. “Thousands and thousands of hours of subject matter expertise have gone into designing the rooms, operating theatres, public spaces, cath labs—you name it. If people aren’t feeling well, at least they are in an environment where they are going to feel cared for.” The design aims to ensure an efficient working environment for staff while promoting healing surroundings for patients. “I am confident that this is going to be the most advanced and patient-centered hospital anywhere in the world,” declares Harrison. “The equipment is first rate; the designs are patient-centered.”

Technology is a watchword for both Harrison and Al Ansari. Mubadala, which already operates several technologically advanced facilities including the Tawam Molecular Imaging Centre in neighbouring Al Ain, believes strongly in the use of the most modern technologies, and CCAD demonstrates this in several ways. The hospital is aiming to achieve the LEED Gold standard, an achievement that is only possible by incorporating the very latest sustainable practices. Some of these features include a double glass skin that reduces energy usage by 20 per cent, the use of solar energy for heating water and the incorporation of technologies to recover grey water.

As well as state-of-the-art design and delivery, patients can expect to benefit from the very latest diagnostic and treatment capabilities that utilise advanced technologies in surgery, diagnostics and electronic medical records. This is an area of particular interest for Harrison: “Cleveland Clinic in Ohio is renowned as one of the world’s foremost digitally supported institutions,” he confirms. “Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is going to take this to the next level. We’re bringing systems forward that will allow us to provide safety, quality, patient experience and operational excellence, all in an environment where we can monitor performance and satisfaction in real time. We will be setting the standard for IT in healthcare.”

Part of the reason Mubadala selected Cleveland Clinic as its partner was its reputation for delivering an unrivalled patient experience. CCAD aims to achieve the same thing via ‘The Cleveland Clinic Experience’, an in-house programme imported from Ohio where all employees learn to act as a unit. “We show them how they as a team affect the patient’s wellbeing as a caregiver. If they push a broom or work in accounting or are a heart surgeon, they are all caregivers,” asserts Harrison. It is this dual focus on both staff and patient that helps to create a special environment. As Harrison reiterates: “Engaged caregivers give the best care.”

For both Harrison and Al Ansari, another key priority is bringing in the best people to work at CCAD. This process has already started in earnest and is evidenced by such eminent appointments as Dr Tomislav Mihaljevic, the world’s foremost specialist in minimally invasive robotic heart surgery. However, there is a longer term plan behind bringing in top talent from overseas, explains Al Ansari. “The importance of creating an environment that is attractive to world-class professionals is vital; but retaining them so they can call Abu Dhabi home is just as important.

“As part of economic diversification, there is ongoing investment into education and attractive living spaces,” he continues. “Abu Dhabi has very high standard of living with schools, shopping malls and now a healthcare system. By bringing people here from all over the world, we can ensure that, long term, the transfer of knowledge and expertise to a more local and regional population is more likely to happen. And at the same time, we are responsibly de-risking our future by creating our own pool of talented individuals.”

It is this forward-thinking attitude displayed by both parties that will surely make the partnership of Mubadala Healthcare and Cleveland Clinic a real success—changing the healthcare landscape of Abu Dhabi forever.