I remember meeting Dr. Stephen Klasko, Jefferson Health’s CEO, for the first time in 2018. I was well on my way in the journey to transform healthcare–having co-founded Livongo in 2013 (with Glen Tullman) and having recently founded Commure…and following a handful of early investments in healthcare start-ups. I was hosting a dinner at a conference for healthcare leaders, and was eager to meet with as many people as I could from inside the healthcare system to better understand what needed to happen next to accelerate the transformation of our broken model. Steve was a kindred spirit who shared my vision for ‘health assurance’ and was already working tirelessly to make it a reality for Jefferson and the community it serves.
I had recently written the book Unscaled–examining the new conditions enabling the unscaling of nearly every industry–from commerce to content to care. Ironically, Steve represented both the antithesis and thesis of that argument. On the one hand, he was merging with other hospital systems as fast as he could to scale up in the short-term, going from 3 to 14 (and now 18) hospitals in just 8 years to make the existing model more efficient; on the other hand, he was prescient in his understanding of the vital importance of what he called ‘healthcare at any address’, implementing JeffConnect (Jefferson’s virtual care platform) in 2014 to begin to build the unscaled digital delivery model for the long-term. Even then, Steve inherently understood that modern healthcare would require a blend of both physical and virtual delivery. The early moves he made helped ensure Jefferson Health was one of the best prepared and most resilient systems to handle the challenges and disruptions of the pandemic.
In that initial discussion with Steve–and the ensuing long-term collaboration between us–we started to formulate a vision for how the healthcare and technology ecosystems could start to work together–neither able to realize the vision of a ‘health assurance’ on its own. Steve has always embraced the idea of ‘radical collaboration’ that I often speak about–a belief that it is only by combining the best of Silicon Valley innovation with the real world expertise and empathy of healthcare leadership that you can create meaningful systemic change. Under Steve’s leadership, Jefferson was an early Livongo customer, a foundational partner at Commure, and a co-developer of Tendo with Jefferson’s own innovation team. Steve was also my co-author for UnHealthcare: A Manifesto for Health Assurance…literally helping to write the book and lay out the blueprint for a system that is more personal, more proactive, more affordable and more equitable. It’s been a long and fruitful strategic partnership that, today, takes yet another important leap forward.
Today we announced a new strategic partnership between Jefferson Health and General Catalyst that will leverage GC as Jefferson’s lead innovation partner for their digital transformation initiatives. Several of our portfolio companies–Commure, Tendo, Transcarent and Olive–are coming together to form a new ‘health assurance’ ecosystem– dedicated to delivering the best offering in their respective spaces, and collectively committed to helping healthcare systems like Jefferson realize their transformation goals. We believe this ecosystem approach is essential to achieving impact at scale; the truth is no one company is big enough or skilled enough to tackle the overall healthcare transformation by itself. This partnership will enable us all to work towards the goals none of us could achieve on our own: better patient experiences, reduced costs, and improved outcomes while solving for the proliferation of siloed, disconnected technology solutions. It will also work to create a fairer, more equitable system to combat the existing paradigm of ‘the wealthier, the healthier’ and ensure people everywhere (but particularly in Jefferson’s Philadelphia community where the devastating impact of healthcare inequity has been well documented) have the opportunity to access, afford and benefit from care.
I’ve long observed that one of the biggest challenges for any leader, in any business, is to protect innovation: to create an environment where innovation can truly grow and flourish. With this partnership, Steve and Jefferson Health President Bruce Meyer have done just that: they have brought innovation into the very core of their businesses–and it will have a transformative impact for their people, their patients and their community.
For us at GC, this is also a new way of working that goes beyond the traditional venture role of just backing companies. Our healthcare team is now in the business of building the ecosystems necessary to deliver the promise of health assurance. It’s a model for how we want to partner with the leading institutions everywhere, because we believe it is a model that will deliver the promise of health assurance at scale.
When you’re trying to change a system with the size, scale and import of our current healthcare system, you realize there are a few people who will make major decisions that will impact the future of an entire industry. When you look back, you realize there were a handful of people who had the vision, the will and the discipline to make meaningful change and leave a lasting legacy. This partnership is just another step in the legacy-making journey Steve and his leadership team set out on long ago: the transformation of Jefferson into a modern, prosperous and equitable health system that is a model of how to serve all its people, its providers and its community.
I am very excited for this next era of collaboration and what it will bring.