Local Program Spotlight

CommonSpirit Health Uses Broad Network of Technology and Partnerhips to Address Health Equity in Rural America

Chicago, Ill. (July 23, 2021) – CommonSpirit Health, together with a comprehensive consortium of partners, is launching a new program focused on addressing health disparities in rural communities across six states. The program seeks to strengthen the coordination of a diverse system of health providers by utilizing, enhancing and modernizing the use of broadband networks to deliver care.

With nearly $6.2 million in funding from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connected Care Pilot Program, CommonSpirit is bringing together a network of partners including 36 clinics across Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota and Nebraska. The goal of the program is to provide patient-based, internet-connected remote monitoring, video visits and remote treatment to vulnerable populations, especially low-income rural residents in medically underserved areas and/or health professional shortage areas. Rural Americans experience significant health disparities, often characterized by indicators such as higher incidents of disease and or disability, increased mortality rates, low life expectancies and higher rates of pain and suffering.

Commonspirit’s program will serve up to 3,000 low-income patients impacted by hypertension, diabetes and other chronic conditions annually. The majority of those served will be connected to care providers via tablet devices with an integrated 4G data plan. These tablets will have limited use for sanctioned applications such as ZOOM, remote monitoring of vital signs, video visits or consults and treatment. For patients without cellular access, alternate solutions, including an LTE router to provide WiFi and wired port, or DSL, Cable or Satellite will be provided.

"An undertaking of this scale necessitates that we bring the right people together around the table, from program development and strategy to delivery and implementation," says Gail Daly, CommonSpirit's System Senior Vice President for Clinical Operations, Integration and Optimization. “We are fortunate to have visionary individuals already within the organization as well as trusted partners in the communities we are serving. Together we will truly evolve the ways in which we deliver care to those who need us most.”

To facilitate the program, CommonSpirit’s national philanthropy team worked closely with their counterparts in Care Transformation, Innovation and Operations, and Digital and Human Experience. This cross-functional team leveraged ten years of experience delivering virtual care, a tool significantly accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health at Home, a full-service health care organization that provides quality, specialized home care was brought on to provide end-user devices and to support the rural health clinics in delivering patient care. Foundation representatives in Kentucky and individual clinics in each state serve as local leaders.

“We are working hand in hand to directly address disparities in health care access in rural and low-income areas by placing virtual visits and access to clinicians literally into the hands of our patients, “ says Lana Adzhigirey RN MN CPHQ, CommonSpirit’s System Director of Virtual Health. “Individuals we might not otherwise see regularly in a clinical setting will be enabled to receive care virtually. Examples of such care are treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety which have been associated with lower risk for heart attack, stroke and other conditions. We are bringing our best partnerships and talented individuals to help improve the health and lives of the underserved populations.”

CommonSpirit recognizes that the health of far too many Americans is determined by socioeconomic factors. A program of this scope highlights the unique opportunities provided by our size and expertise, including the ability to leverage both national and locally-targeted care partners to properly address health equity. This approach is necessary to achieve the goals of measurably improving patient health and engagement while innovating the delivery of virtual health care to patients in rural mobile and residential locations.