Jefferson Health is an academy and community health system that serves communities in Philadelphia and South New Jersey. They consist of 14 hospitals, a long-term care facility, and outpatient services. The system has more than tripled in size in the last seven years into a $5.5 billion system, according to Nizami.
According to Russell, Dr. Klasko highlighted 3D-printers to print PPE, bots to ID illnesses, wearables to test for cases, drones to deliver medications, and virtual work to limit infection.
While these developments may seem years away, Nizami explained they are likely closer than one may think. This is based on current advancements such as Amazon receiving FDA approval to operate drones in its fleet, CVS partnering with UPS for medication delivery, and organizations quickly moving users to remote work.
As for recent accomplishments, Jefferson Health reported at the JP Morgan conference that their system had zero transmissions to non-COVID patients and less than a 1% employee infection rate. The first thing that played a vital role in the system's response was having a clear focus and mission, which Nizami believed critical to being able to make plans.
"Early on when COVID hit us, we looked at our mission and said the COVID mission is to improve lives. We need to do the right thing," he said.
On the IT side, the team focused on core competency, which is the ability to execute, Nizami explained.
Another aspect was quick decision-making. According to Nizami, they stopped non-critical tasks and enabled remote patient monitoring. This, in turn, limited employee exposure to the virus.
The organization has been investing in telehealth for several years, with the belief that hospitals without risk is the future. According to Nizami, the pandemic accelerated their efforts by ten times.
With cloud integration, the team was able to quickly implement remote working through key applications. In this transition to remote work, there was a concern for productivity; however, there has been no loss reported.
"Almost 12 months after we went to work from home, our productivity levels are still very high working remotely," he said.
With the push to remote and digital care, Nizami has supported the role of technology in addressing disparities within the community. However, he is also concerned with the digital divide.
The main hindrances are the access and affordability of broadband services. While telehealth is beneficial, Nizami explained those who do not have a working device or broadband connection do not receive this technological advancement.
“The pandemic highlighted the need for robust broadband connection. Generally speaking, you don't think of it as related to healthcare but it is. It has become a key part. Without a robust connection and without access to digital tools there will continue to be a digital divide,” he said.
In 2021, Nizami's focus has shifted from inpatient and patients coming to the hospital to vaccinations.
“We are spending weekends and evenings on mass vaccination. How do we register a patient in a reasonable way? In a safe way? How do we reach the population electronically? This all goes back to the discussion of the digital divide. Not everyone has access to technology so our priority is to make sure that we help not only through Jefferson Health but also the city of Philadelphia," he said.
According to Nizami, a main area of investment in the future is digital technology and the continued move to the cloud.
"So there's going to be a big push already, but I think even more significantly, we are going to be pushing more towards a digital front door," he explained.
Another priority is automation, which was slowed down during the pandemic. According to Nizami, they are looking forward to completing the move to one EHR health system.
The organization made the decision to switch to a centralized operating model. Nizami anticipated the transition will be completed soon, leaving the system with a seamless and fast version across the health systems.
Through all the transitions of the pandemic, a lesson Nizami learned as CIO was the importance of agility and the ability to make good decisions.
"We can operate in a very nimble way, almost like a startup. And how a question for us frankly, is how do we preserve that?" he said.
It is integral to find a way to preserve this within the team to monitor, communicate, and execute, he explained.
Addressing the overall impact of COVID, a culture of technology acceptance is apparent. According to Nizami, this acceptance is a key enabler of healthcare. Even in communities where technology was predicted to not be preferred, some surprising demographics have began to accept these solutions.
To learn more about this episode of This Week in Health IT, watch the full interview at www.thisweekhealth.com.
Tess Kellogg – Editor-in-Chief
Katie Talpos – Staff Writer