Welltower Continues Health System Push with Jefferson Health Joint Venture

Welltower Inc. (NYSE: WELL) on Monday continued its recent push to partner with major health systems, announcing a joint venture with the non-profit Jefferson Health.

A hospital heavyweight in the Philadelphia metro area, Jefferson — affiliated with Thomas Jefferson University — will begin providing clinical care at Welltower’s senior housing, assisted living, and memory care sites.

The health system and the real estate investment trust (REIT) will also form a joint venture that will see Welltower acquire a stake in Jefferson’s real estate assets, based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

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The parties will reach a more formal agreement in the next 90 days, according to a joint statement. Both sides framed the move as a way to create a more connected continuum of care for older residents of the Philadelphia area.

“Welltower and Jefferson are well aligned in our thinking that much of the current built environment for health care delivery cannot meet the promise of technological innovation and value-based care,” Welltower CEO Tom DeRosa said in the statement. “Jefferson, a leader in delivering care outside the hospital walls, together with Welltower, will work to ensure that Jefferson’s health care delivery infrastructure will deliver care more efficiently, cost effectively and with improved outcomes.”

The deal aligns with Welltower’s overall move toward viewing its senior housing and care assets as part of larger regional health ecosystems. For the skilled nursing industry, the Toledo, Ohio-based REIT’s acquisition of the HCR ManorCare nursing home chain in a joint venture with health system ProMedica in 2018 marked a potentially seismic shift; at the time, DeRosa and ProMedica’s leadership touted the move as a way to build a vertically integrated care continuum out of existing parts.

“The close of this transformative joint venture further validates our health system strategy through which we leverage high-quality real estate to optimize care delivery at lower costs sites of care, while remaining focused on improved outcomes,” DeRosa said of the ProMedica-ManorCare deal in July 2018.

The CEO expanded on those thoughts during an event in Chicago last summer.

“When we announced ProMedica, people said: ‘Oh, they’re doing a SNF deal.’ That’s a very pedestrian view of what the ProMedica joint venture is,” DeRosa said. “The ProMedica joint venture was a first-ever joint venture between a not-for-profit health system and a for-profit health care delivery platform like Welltower that enabled this health system to further vertically integrate.”

For Welltower and Jefferson, the partnership could have a specific focus on tech.

“An environment where you wake up and your home monitor device has collated the data from your wearable device and medical history and cross referenced that data with the day’s pollen count to make recommendations on how you should manage your day,” Jefferson Health CEO Stephen Klasko said in the statement. “This is what we mean when we talk about Jefferson using creative strategic partnerships and innovation to change health care.”

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