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Lake County, Ohio’s Mentor Hospital opened earlier this month, with Cleveland Clinic’s first private 5G network – a 5G millimeter wave network built on an Ericsson platform. 

In addition to several patient engagement touchpoints, the health system says it’s looking to private cellular networks to keep up with healthcare’s demand for high speeds, low latency and the need for cybersecurity.

Private 5G offers bells and whistles

Cleveland Clinic outfitted Mentor Hospital as a “hospital of the future” with consumer-centric patient experiences from the exam room to the operating room, according to an announcement this month.

Mentor Hospital, operated by Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital, is designed to serve patients with fewer critical needs who are expected to have shorter hospital stays and get follow-up care at home. It has 34 inpatient/observation rooms, 23 outpatient rooms, 19 emergency department beds, 12 pre/post-anesthesia care beds and four operating rooms, according to Cleveland Clinic.

“Mentor Hospital is a new hospital concept, based on the needs of the community, and supports our goal of providing every patient the best care and experience possible,” said Dr. Tom Mihaljevic, Cleveland Clinic’s CEO, president and Morton L. Mandel CEO chair.

With a high-speed network, the new hospital offers patient engagement touchpoints like information and education kiosks and infotainment – television, films, gaming and Internet – in patient rooms. The network is being used for administrative functions, like asset tracking.

But it’s “low hanging fruit” compared to what private 5G could mean across the Cleveland Clinic portfolio, according to Thomas.

Tomorrow’s wireless network

“It’s a smaller site, it’s a test bed,” he told Healthcare IT News on Thursday.

With 5G mmWave, the IT team has the opportunity to explore a number of use cases. 

The Verizon private 5G network can support augmented and virtual reality for clinical and patient education, share large medical images quickly, and more.

While Thomas notes it’s early in the journey, Cleveland Clinic’s IT specialists already scheduled cross-team workshops to discuss healthcare challenges that 5G might solve. 

“With high-speed imaging, demand will grow over time,” he said. 

Another area is with hospital-at-home programs. 

“That is where a private network is a really good fit,” Thomas said. 

Beyond use cases, it’s possible that private 5G networks could be relied on for any mission-critical function that relies on wired connections today, he explained.

“This collaboration supports our long-term vision for a fully digital hospital infrastructure,” said Matthew Kull, chief information officer for Cleveland Clinic, in Verizon’s announcement about the April deployment 

“If we can provide 5G high bandwidth to our facilities, we can become more efficient, ensure better continuity of care as patients transition home and enhance the overall experience for our caregivers and patients,” he said.

Since private 5G networks are completely invisible, they are “inherently more secure,” Thomas added.

Able to support numerous connections

Cleveland Clinic already relied on FirstNet for certain mission-critical phones, but with most of its wireless and communications services through Verizon, it was a better fit for the private 5G partnership, said Thomas. 

At this time, 5G networks are typically installed in crowded urban areas. 

According to a November report on 5G mmWave deployment best practices by GSMA, typical 5G networks use low-band and mid-band spectrum, according to the mobile industry organization – in the 600 MHz to 6 GHz frequency range. 

“While sub-6 GHz 5G is faster than 4G LTE, it doesn’t offer the super-fast data rates or capacity that can be achieved with mmWave,” the organization said in its technical document.

“In addition, both 4G LTE and sub-6 GHz speeds can slow down considerably when large numbers of devices are connecting to the network.”

5G private networks operate at frequencies of 24 GHz and higher, and are thus able to deliver multi-gigabit data rates with very low latency, GSMA noted. 

For its size, Mentor Hospital has a robust list of outpatient services, including bariatric surgery, cardiology, digestive disease, general and colorectal surgery, vascular surgery, urology, pulmonary medicine, orthopedics, and sports medicine, as well as lab and imaging services.

While the new 5G network doesn’t serve medical and IoT devices at the present time, Thomas said several manufacturers have already expressed interest in partnering to explore use of their equipment over Cleveland Clinic’s new private 5G network. 

“Where before there was a lack of opportunity, this will be a new opportunity,” said Thomas.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: afox@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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