Jefferson and Aria Health Now Operating As One

The long-awaited merger is an effort to reshape health care delivery in Philadelphia—and it probably won't be Jefferson's last.

Board members of Jefferson and Aria at the merger signing at the Aria Health Torresdale Campus in Northeast Philadelphia. | Photo: Angela Showell

Jefferson Health COO Laurence Merlis, Aria Board of Directors Chair Robert Truitt, President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health Stephen Klasko, Aria CEO Kathleen Kinslow and Jefferson Board of Trustees Chair Richard Hevner at the merger signing. | Photo: Angela Showell

Surrounded by a cheery crowd of medical workers and students, the board members of Jefferson Health and Aria Health signed off on their long-awaited merger today, forming a $4.5 billion organization that they say will improve health care access for patients across the city and in the neighboring suburbs.

The announcement comes about one year following Jefferson’s merge with Montgomery County’s Abington Health, the first major partnership under the Jefferson’s president and chief executive officer, Stephen Klasko.

For Klasko, the mergers represent Jefferson’s push to rethink how to more efficiently provide healthcare to communities inside Philadelphia and those surrounding it.

“We recognized that reimagining our vision meant using technology to get care out to where people are,” Klasko said, “so while other hospitals are building new beds […] we’re investing in telehealth technology to get Jefferson care out to the Northeast and urgent care centers,” emphasizing that partnering with Aria “changes the whole system” by “getting the care out to where they are.”

The new partnership with Aria Health, which provides services in the Northeast and Bucks County, consists of 23,000 employees, 5,000 physicians and practitioners, 5,770 nurses and 2,217 inpatient beds.

In the months following the completion of the merger, Jefferson says it will focus on providing leadership training for doctors and nurses to adjust to the new model.

“Our goal is to get them excited and optimistic about a very different future in existence,” said Klasko.

The two hospitals entered into a letter of intent about the merger in October 2015 after two years of strategic planning  and partnership exploration. The shared governance model that was established under the Abington-Jefferson merger now allows Aria to designate an equal number of members to the expanded Thomas Jefferson University board.

“[Aria and Jefferson] are working together because I think we bring the best of both worlds and we have many more resources at our fingertips now,” said Aria Health president and CEO Kathleen Kinslow. Adding, “We have a strong community base here serving the people of Northeast Philadelphia. And by coming together, we are able to have a situation where patients don’t have to travel [far] to get their care.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Aria will be designated as a regional referral site and will be “an epicenter for new program development” as well as the expansion of existing programs, according to a statement from the hospital. Moving forward, it will be known as Aria-Jefferson Health and its Frankford, Torresdale and Bucks County operations will all carry the Jefferson Health brand.

But Jefferson isn’t stopping there.

The healthcare powerhouse is waiting to move forward with a definitive agreement to merge with South Jersey’s Kennedy Health System. Klasko also announced a developing partnership with Philadelphia University.