Matthew Ernst

Vice President Digital Services,Business Development & Learning, Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE), Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health

Supernova Award Category: 

Tech Optimization and Modernization

The Organization: 

The Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group was founded in 2014 to create innovative products, services, and business models for Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. Since then, we’ve delivered on this goal by positioning Jefferson as a consumer-focused, digital-ready and innovative organization. The Dice Group has developed over 130 solutions. These solutions have helped Jefferson reduce costs, increase revenue, and add more patient visits and student enrollments

The Problem: 

The Digital Innovation and Consumer Experience (DICE) Group at Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health deployed iPads/tablets in some patient rooms a year ago in response to overstretched doctors and nurses who were struggling to coordinate the delivery of care to patients throughout their wards. COVID-19 exacerbated the problem and presented an even more pressing demand for physicians to safely communicate and treat their patients who had the disease. At the same time, COVID-19 patients were unable to visit with their loved ones during hospitalization. Witnessing the impact of that isolation and the toll it was taking on patients motivated care providers and DICE to develop an alternative way for patients and families to reunite. 

The Solution: 

New and iPads already located in patient rooms were upgraded with software to ensure secure access. Access workflow had to be uncomplicated for care providers, patients, and families. HIPPA compliance was vital for tablets in rooms for communication/treatment purposes. Zoom was deployed on tablets so multiple care providers could converse with a patient and patients could talk with several family members simultaneously.

For treatment, devices provide deeper levels of personalized, agile, and responsive care. Doctors participate virtually using an app DICE configured for medical care, limiting exposure by staff. Nurses use devices to check patients without donning protective equipment. The tablets reduce the number of staff members who need to enter rooms. The use of PPE fall by half, helping to cope with shortages and reduce costs. Devices enhanced end-of-life care. Families could be contacted quickly, brought to patients virtually to be with them in their final moments

The Results: 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, tablets are an important measure to protect critical front-line providers from unnecessary face-to-face interactions with COVID-19 patients, while saving scarce personal protective equipment. Improving the ability for patients to communicate with their doctors remotely during this worldwide emergency can ultimately save lives. By deploying devices that are not integrated with complex electronic health records and are simple to use for virtual visits — as easy as tapping a patient’s room number on the tablet — we helped providers embrace the process and technology quickly. While the primary goal of the change was to protect healthcare workers from infected patients, the ease of logging on virtually means providers and specialists are checking in with patients more frequently. For the patients, seeing their physician and other care providers without the “alien” appearance of the mask, face shield, goggles, and gown has been comforting, too. It allows for more relaxed conversations because everyone can read facial expressions that facilitate human and empathetic care at the bedside. Healthcare workers are also able to loop in family members on video conferences, which can keep otherwise isolated patients connected and help with difficult care conversations. The technology also can virtually bring in specialists, palliative care teams, and translators, all without the exposure risk of a typical in-person encounter.


Currently, 1700+ tablets with Zoom and other needed software are actively used in patient rooms. During the peak of the pandemic in Philadelphia, care providers and families were conducting 2,500+ meetings per week at Jefferson, with 71% being between providers and patients and 27% between patients and their loved ones. Software development took about six days and deploying the tablets with Zoom took another 10. Clear, concise documentation for care providers was authored and shared in under a week. During the initial tablet rollout, Resource Management monitored usage in each unit and quickly moved devices to where they were most needed.   

The Technology: 

The technology utilized for this project consisted of iPads, Zoom, customized development using the ServiceNow platform, and Domo to capture usage statistics and metrics. 

Disruptive Factor: 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to examine existing technology and make it work in new ways. Providing a streamlined, simple, and secure tool to care providers so they could communicate with patients in a safe manner was paramount. Seeing patients suffer from the emotional toll of being isolated also urged s to get creative and come up with a solution fast. DICE had a job to do and quickly created a service for those involved with direct patient care, patients, and their families. For anyone infected with or affected by Covid-19, seeing a smile and sharing a laugh, even virtually, is truly appreciated. 

Shining Moment: 

At Jefferson Health, safety is the No. 1 priority for patients, staff, and anyone visiting. For 120+ days, 25,000 Jefferson Health professionals and support staff worked tirelessly to fight COVID-19. Despite having treated more COVID-19 patients than any other system in the Philadelphia area, we have been highly successful in protecting staff, with only about 1 percent of employees testing positive. Care during the pandemic has been delivered safely, patients and staff have remained healthy.

About Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health

Jefferson Health, a multi-state health system provides primary to highly specialized care through 14 hospitals and 50+ outpatient/urgent care locations across PA and NJ.  The University, born out of a unique merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University with distinctive, award-winning curriculum, prepares students with skills needed to succeed and lead in the future of work.