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‘Philadelphia Is On The Front Line For Health’: Jefferson Health CEO Dr. Stephen Klasko at Bisnow’s Philadelphia Healthcare Summit

How is Philadelphia handling the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital, which left a record number of physicians out of work? What changes should real estate put in place now to be ahead of the healthcare curve in 10 years? These questions and more will be on the docket at Bisnow’s Philadelphia Healthcare Summit Sept. 25. Register here for the event.

Penn Medicine Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Mahoney and Thomas Jefferson University President and CEO Stephen Klasko

Dr. Stephen Klasko thinks the future of healthcare is bright, but it won’t be that way if we don’t put the work in.

The president and CEO of Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, a 14-hospital healthcare system centered in Philadelphia, Klasko has made a career motivating others to think critically about the American healthcare system and encouraging them to make decisions that will steer it toward a stronger, more equitable future.

His optimism is being put to the test now in his own hometown. Hahnemann University Hospital, in Center City Philadelphia, announced in June that it would close its doors due to unsustainable financial losses. Now the city is facing a void for strong healthcare and a wave of nurses, physicians and ancillary workers without jobs. 

Dr. Klasko sat down with Bisnow to talk through the largest challenges in healthcare for real estate and what he’s looking forward to at our Philadelphia Healthcare Summit on Sept. 25. 

Bisnow: What do you wish the CRE industry knew about healthcare?

Klasko: Whatever needs are going to be obvious in 10 years, you have to meet them now. That’s clearly the case in real estate. We’re shifting to healthcare with no address, and companies are starting to offer care without the need to physically go to the doctor’s office. The growth of telehealth has been dramatic, and soon health systems may see the majority of their patients through phone calls or apps. 

There’s a lot of real estate built up around the old models which will have to change. We probably won’t see a decline in hospitals for surgery and serious sick care. But you’re going to see a shift toward building more outpatient facilities, probably with smaller parking lots.

Bisnow: What is the biggest challenge in healthcare CRE?

Klasko: The challenge is to embrace the changes in the industry to make a better health system. The American healthcare system remains fragmented, inequitable and difficult for consumers. Your ZIP code can still determine the quality of care you get. We need to embrace change to make healthcare easier, more equitable and more about health, not just about sick care.

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Klasko: Being creative about the future of health. I believe firmly that we beat creativity out of doctors. We need to reintroduce creativity into the medical curriculum. If you think of yourself as creative, you can learn to make the most of changes in the industry. If you don’t think of yourself as creative, you get scared of change.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night? 

Klasko: Talking to my colleagues who are health economists. When they look into the future, they predict that care will get worse, and that it will increasingly separate into rich people’s healthcare and poor people’s healthcare. That’s a horrible trend that we need to stand against as a society and as an industry. We have to make changes in healthcare to ensure that everybody has a great level of access and the same high quality of care.

Bisnow: What are you looking forward to at our Philadelphia Healthcare Summit?

Klasko: Philadelphia has its challenges, and really it’s the front line of many of the changes happening in the country. Fantastically bad things have happened in Philadelphia, including Hahnemann University Hospital closing. But fantastically good things are happening, if you look at the reaction of the community and how people are coming together to tackle new challenges.

Bisnow’s Philadelphia Healthcare Summit will take place at the Rittenhouse Hotel Sept. 25.