James Demetriades, the recently named CEO of Penn Medicine Princeton Health in Plainsboro, is taking charge of one of the region’s major medical centers during an era of unprecedented changes.

2021 05 WWP James Demetriades

New CEO James Demetriades talks with Reina Fleury, vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer.

That includes the current impact of COVID-10.

“We are in the midst of significant change in the way health care is delivered,” says Demetriades. “We have absolutely seen the telehealth of which Princeton was on the vanguard shift into primary care and health practice.”

Pointing to Penn-Princeton’s ability to support 80,000 behavioral health outpatients in 2020, Demetriades, who succeeded Barry Rabner on March 1, says, “Princeton Health has successfully pivoted in the age of COVID. We see this as a long-term change in the way in which health care is delivered.”

“We’re going to see a whole host of nontraditional competitors,” he continues, using an example of urgent care at home. “We’re working to develop a hybrid model — we want to reach people where they’re comfortable. Patients want to seek care close to home and outside institutional centers, and we’re working to see consumer preferences within our community.”

The medical landscape has also been changed over the past decade with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, which Demetriades says “was a net positive for both hospitals and patients. More people than ever had health coverage, which meant they had greater access to care.”

In addition to practice and increased coverage, the past several years has also refashioned the concept of hospitals and facilities.

Unlike single hospital buildings — like the former Princeton Hospital in downtown Princeton — current practices emphasize complexes with amenities, designs and multiple services.

Demetriades, who also served as what was then called Princeton Healthcare’s vice president of professional services from 2010 to 2020, and executive director of surgical services from 2007 to 2009, says, “When we were envisioning our new campus, we had the foresight to anticipate that change. On our campus we have essentially services that span the lifecycle of care for our communities.”

That includes services provided by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the hospital, a day care center, senior living projects, fitness and wellness centers, and rehabilitation care support from Merwick Care and Rehabilitation Center.

He says as Princeton Healthcare began planning its transition from Princeton in 2007 and the opening of the new facility on a 171-acre Plainsboro tract in 2012, the administration was looking to create a facility that would provide the previously mentioned broad level of services.

He sees the current engagement of services on the Penn Medicine Princeton Health campus translating into a $1.2 to $1.5 billion asset to the general community.

Explaining how such costs will be maintained, he says Penn-Princeton sold other health service providers land parcels, “so the not-for-profit hospital that sits at the center of the campus doesn’t bear the costs.”

As for expenses related to updating medical technology, Demetriades says, “One of the fortunate aspects for us is that we’re in a building that is eight years old. In the health care business we’re an infant. So a lot of the equipment we have is brand new. But we’ve continue to reinvest when new technology has hit the market — we have continuously reinvested to bring cutting-edge services and to stay current and not lose ground from an investment perspective.”

He adds that being part of Penn Medicine is an asset and that Princeton Health is “a wholly owned entity of the University of Pennsylvania. We are fully integrated as part of the Penn system.”

Penn Medicine, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia, has roots in the nation’s first hospital, Pennsylvania Hospital, founded in 1751; first medical school, The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, 1765; and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 1874.

Under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania, its network of facilities also includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health.

Demetriades says Princeton Health took a very deliberate approach to its partnership with Penn Medicine and noted several advantages for area patients. “Penn is one of the preeminent medical centers in the country. They help raise the quality and expertise.” That includes state-of-the-art protocols, record keeping, and “seamless” participation with Penn Medicine members’ services not available in Plainsboro.

“I think the other piece is that not only do they have one of the best clinical reputations but from an economic perspective Penn is one of the healthiest medical centers in the county. That has allowed us to invest in our services. That became apparent as we have come through the pandemic and many organizations have struggled.”

Originally from northeast Pennsylvania, Demetriades lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Laura Prosser, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and their two daughters, ages 5 and 6.

He attended Tamaqua High School before earning a bachelor’s of science in healthcare administration from the University of Scranton and an M.B.A. in healthcare administration from the Temple University Fox School of Business in Philadelphia.

“Scranton had a top-notch hospital administration program, and I went to Temple because it is nationally ranked for healthcare administration,” he says about his choice of training.

“I think being a healthcare worker is the most virtuous calling there is,” he says regarding his career path. “My 94-year-old grandmother was a nurse at our local hospital when I was growing up and served as a nursing supervisor and nurse manager of the emergency department. I spent a lot of time in hospitals, and I was fascinated by their complexity. When I was an 18-year-old undergrad, I knew that I wanted to be involved in running hospitals.”

He extends his hospital work beyond Princeton as a Reserve Medical Service Corps officer in the U.S. Navy, stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

With the majority of his professional career at Princeton, Demetriades also served as vice president for trauma and surgical services at Reading Hospital and Medical Center from July, 2009, to November, 2010. “I had an opportunity to break into the vice president ranks. Then I was recruited back to Prince­ton to be part of the executive team working on the new hospital project. I loved Princeton, I loved the organization, and I was very excited to come back and be part of the planning, design, and move to the new hospital and campus.”

Accessing his skills at the start of his tenure of overseeing a facility with a $550 million annual operating budget, Demetriades says, “I bring a very strong operations background. I know how this organization functions and how it ticks. I have a strong relationship with our physician community, nursing staff, clinicians, and everyone who makes this organization.”

He adds he also brings a keen eye to the future and depends on four factors: “quality; growth and access to care for our community; patient experience; and elevating our staff so they can achieve their professional goals and advance in their careers and recruiting top-notch talent into the organization.”

But for now Demetriades says, “I think the first thing we need to do is manage the transition to a post-pandemic world. A great deal has changed, and it continues evolving as we speak. Our challenge is to respond to the evolving healthcare environment to best meet the needs of our patients and community.”