Modern Healthcare | July 19, 2022 

With 83 hospitals across 16 states, Community Health Systems is one of the nation’s largest health systems.

For Dr. Lynn Simon, Community’s chief medical officer, this means plenty of opportunities exist across the health system where digital health could make an impact. She said there is no magic formula when assessing digital health areas of investment. It’s a drawn-out process that utilizes the expertise of different clinical, technical and operational teams throughout the organization.

“There’s a lot to consider but at the end of the day we start with safety and quality,” Simon said. “It’s about enhancing the patient experience. We are not just looking at technology for technology’s sake. We typically have a specific goal in mind about a problem where we want an answer.”

Simon spoke with Digital Health Business & Technology about the process of picking digital health companies to work with, two specific collaborations in maternal health and outpatient care and more. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the process for how Community Health Systems chooses digital health solutions to adopt?

We have a small team that is on the lookout for different technologies, such as machine learning or AI, or digital consumer engagement. We then try to see which ones align with some of our key priorities around safety, quality, operational efficiency and consumer engagement. And then if we find things that seem to be a match for what we’re trying to achieve, we’ll bring in more of our clinical folks to assess it. We have a physician leadership group that helps us review some of these technologies and see if it’s something that they feel will enhance their patients’ care and will help them in the office. Then we’ll do some due diligence, and we’ll look for other organizations that have used the technology and find out what their results were.

Then we have to go through a significant review from a clinical, financial, technical and cybersecurity perspective. If it involves machine learning or AI, we have a data scientist that will evaluate the algorithms. Obviously, we want to know if the technology is approved or cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After all that we’ll run a pilot and see if it gets the results as intended and determine if we want to scale further.

Talk me through the process to invest in an artificial intelligence-based maternal-fetal early warning system from PeriGen? 

We heard about PeriGen and then went and evaluated some other systems around that time. After selecting PeriGen, we ran three pilots across some of our larger obstetrics facilities. The results were compelling, and the clinicians appreciated the technology enough that adoption was sufficient. We made the decision that we could leverage the technology across the portfolio, which is comprised of 50 obstetrics programs. We started that process in 2021 and as of Q1 this year, almost all of them have PeriGen up and running.

Why maternal health?

We had more than 50,000 deliveries in 2021. It’s certainly an important service line for us. Maternal care and delivering babies is an extremely personal journey, and there are risks associated with it. Most times, it goes really well, but when it doesn’t, it takes an emotional toil on the moms, the families and our caregivers. And unfortunately, there is also malpractice that must be considered [when things go wrong]. All those things led us to realize it was an important area for us to consider and use technology to provide the highest quality of care to our patients. This technology also allows us to collect data across the organization, from program to program, to see where we have an opportunity to improve and provide better care.

Your other recent partnership was with Cadence, using remote patient monitoring and virtual care for chronic disease management. How did that one come about?

For this one, we were focused on patients in ambulatory or outpatient settings. How do we improve the care in the physician offices, which tend to be more episodic? How do we follow patients more closely? How do we improve those outcomes? We went on a journey to look at systems that could do remote patient monitoring of chronic conditions. I think we evaluated probably 15 different technologies or companies that did similar things to Cadence. We selected Cadence because they provide a service along with the technology. Also, one of our main requirements was that the information had to be integrated into our ambulatory electronic medical record because we didn’t want to have our clinicians have to look in different systems to access this data. That’s early stage. We have rolled out in two markets. We’re just about ready to roll out for diabetes monitoring and then to follow will be chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.