South Jersey and Philadelphia transition into online learning

South Jersey and Philadelphia transition into online learning

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 —Jefferson Health is a multistate, nonprofit health system, including teaching hospitals, centered in Philadelphia. CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko details how earlier actions helped its hospitals get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of preparation. Klasko also outlines the actions he would like to see from the state and federal governments to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

What accommodations have you made to handle the influx of patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak? 

No one was totally ready for this pandemic, but Jefferson Health – all 14 hospitals – had a head start in preparing because of two initiatives. More than 10 years ago, Jefferson infectious disease doctor Edward Jasper started leading pandemic drills, and he stockpiled a supply of PPEs (personal protective equipment). In fact, we even sent PPEs to New York City in the early days of the crisis. Second, in 2014, we invested heavily in telehealth, launching JeffConnect, which immediately connects patients by video-call to an emergency department physician. As a result, we didn’t have to rebuild our system when calls went from 50 a day to more than 3,000 a day. Telehealth handled the first wave of the crisis, allowing us to support COVID-19 patients at home, as well as help thousands of people who were sick but not with COVID-19.

How are you working to ensure that patients and healthcare professionals alike are maintaining a safe environment?

Jefferson Health moved very quickly to a “universal masking” policy, requiring all staff to wear masks at work, even if their patients were COVID-negative. We were one of the first hospital systems to adopt universal masking, exactly to ensure we protect our own staff. We were in close contact with our colleagues in Italy, who told us that proper protection for staff dramatically cuts transmission within a hospital. 

Because we were prepared, we are able to allow a loved one to attend our patients during end of life situations, even for COVID-positive patients. We even allow a loved one to attend labor and delivery for a birth. This requires a full procedure of having a nurse escort to attend the loved one. We did this because of the long-term psychological trauma of unresolved grief when families are unable to say goodbye in person. 

How can the community best assist the local healthcare providers in this time of need?

The first answer is the critical one: Do not spread the illness. Our frontline staff are working horrendous hours attempting to save the lives of vulnerable patients. They are isolating themselves from their own children and families in order not to spread the virus. Do not increase their already heavy workload by getting sick yourself. 

But there are also vulnerable populations who need our help. The virus is disproportionately hitting places of congregate living – that includes retirement homes and communities. It is disproportionately hitting people who are poor. And the consequences of staying home are hitting people with medical needs all across society, from uninsured women who cannot get prenatal care, to older people on dialysis. In each case, there is specific advice, which may just be to give money to help not-for-profits that are providing assistance to the poor. 

What is your message to the local community that is sheltering in place and waiting for a return to normalcy?

Many of us are concerned that people with urgent medical issues are delaying treatment plans, not collecting medications, not seeking help. Please tell your family and friends: Do not delay getting help for cardiac and stroke issues. Do not delay taking medications. Stay on your cancer treatment regimen, and if you have the opportunity to join an advanced protocol or clinical trial, you should do that. Very important: Use telehealth to get mental health support if you need it. It may take more work today than it did last year, but please get the help you need. 

Do you feel you are receiving enough state and federal support and what more is needed? 

I believe Congress should immediately convene a COVID Commission along the lines of the 9/11 Commission – it is that serious. We need immediate changes to policy to enhance innovation to fight the immediate threat, but we also need to review the financial implications of this fight for hospitals, and we need to figure out how to ensure the next pandemic doesn’t create a health and economic crisis of this magnitude. On my list of things we need: Immediate access to the internet for all citizens, not just those who can afford a data plan. We need the federal government to lead preparation for surge capacity for intensive care, responding to any crisis. We need to prepare to offer health insurance after massive layoffs. And we need to evaluate the ethics of how we pay for healthcare to ensure equity for disadvantaged communities. 

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Spotlight On: Joe Devine, Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer, Jefferson Health

Spotlight On: Joe Devine, Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer, Jefferson Health

By: Max Crampton- Thomas

2 min read March 2020 — The healthcare industry is poised to revolutionize how it cares for its patients through cutting-edge technology, at a time when a transition toward outpatient services is further consolidating. Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer at Jefferson Health Joe Devine discusses with Invest: the priorities for the group amid these new trends. 


How does Jefferson Health stand out from other healthcare players in the region?

We have a seamless care system in the region. Our location in South Jersey is less than 17 miles from the main Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. We also provide services in South Jersey that have historically only been provided by Jefferson in Philadelphia, such as Magee Rehabilitation, which recently opened a service at our Cherry Hill hospital. Our technological innovations and telehealth are also sizable differentiators. Jefferson is a truly focused clinical academic medical center that combines teaching and medical care. In New Jersey, we are a teaching hospital for the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as a training location for the Jefferson University Physician Assistant program. 


In what ways has technology disrupted the healthcare industry?

Technology is so advanced and outstanding that it works extremely well. For example, we have a neural flow program for patients with mental health issues that helps us with their evaluation. We also have implemented home-monitoring care technology that improves access, and we have succeeded in advancing our linear accelerator when it comes to treating cancer patients, an area that is more precision-driven. The cost of such technology is higher, but we do not transfer that cost to our patients. We are working on ways to inject further efficiencies in the process to continue providing benefits to our patients, including our telehealth program (JeffConnect), 3D mammography, 3D ultrasound, and other advancements like ABUS (Advanced Breast Ultrasound System). These have gone through substantial technological improvements, which are critical in the delivery of care. Technology will continue to be at the forefront of what we do, combined with the important humanistic aspect of providing care. We are also bolstering our smartphone app platforms to improve communication and follow-up processes with our patients. JeffConnect enables patients to receive personalized healthcare through their smartphone or computer. 


How is Jefferson Health tackling the local community’s health issues?

Every three years, we are required to undertake a community health needs assessment. What is great about this initiative is that all hospitals in Camden County work with the Departments of Health to shed light on the key health categories in which we should invest. In 2017, for example, it was primarily diabetes. We created a medical school and a district program with a comprehensive diabetes management program for Medicaid recipients, powered by telehealth services and coupled with a robust home care component. It helped improve patients’ health while minimizing their hospital visits. We are looking to continue providing innovative services, while at the same time contributing to building an effective population health model, as healthcare transitions more into outpatient services. As shown from the most recent community health needs assessment, the priority continues to be tackling metabolic diseases. We have a robust diabetes education program, as well as a very successful bariatric surgery program to assist with those needs.


How does Jefferson Health contribute to local efforts to reduce the disparities in care access?

For years, we have had family health centers, which in yesterday’s terminology were called clinics. We have two robust centers, one in Washington Township, Gloucester County, that offer comprehensive internal medicine, pediatrics and OB/GYN services. The other center is located near our Stratford hospital to service the Camden County community. We see a minimum of 20,000 patients a year in those facilities. The purpose of those centers is to serve the underserved.

We also have a partnership in South Jersey with the Food Bank of South Jersey. Any one of our 5,200 employees in New Jersey can participate in some way with the Food Bank. We encourage donations four times a year. It is tied to the health of people we serve.


What are the fastest-growing areas of care and service in the South Jersey region?

End-stage renal disease is more prominent throughout this nation for a lot of different reasons. We started a dialysis program in 1992 to attend to this growing issue with a single, six-bed station. We now have 55 stations. In this market alone, there are more than 200 stations nationwide. It is something we need to address. A close second is the opioid crisis. We do see patients come back multiple times. Unless you have the right post-care model, you cannot treat this illness. Unfortunately, it is growing. Third, is cancer care. This area is becoming increasingly robust with procedures like genetic testing and screening. We are working to put models in place so that when a patient is diagnosed with cancer, we look at the entire family. 


What is your outlook for South Jersey’s healthcare sector for 2020?

The sector in New Jersey continues to grow. We have some great hospitals here. Having served as board chair of the New Jersey Hospital Association in 2019, I can attest to these outstanding facilities. By 2025, it is likely we will see the consolidation of close to five healthcare systems across the whole region. We are going to continue to expand and develop a model that provides the ability for patients to have choices and become part of our network. We are working to become the most patient-centric organization in healthcare in the region. 


To learn more about our interviewee, visit: