CommonSpirit Health Teams, CommonSpirit Health
Next-Generation Customer Experience
CommonSpirit Health, formed in 2019 by the alignment of Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) and Dignity Health, is the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S., with more than 1,000 care sites and 141 hospitals, in 21 states. CommonSpirit has a strong legacy of caring for the underserved, and our mission compels us to advance social justice for all.
Our Mission Statement is just 35 words, but there are profound ideas behind them. It is a formal declaration of our purpose; an affirmation of why we exist.
“As CommonSpirit Health, we make the healing presence of God known in our world by improving the health of the people we serve, especially those who are vulnerable, while we advance social justice for all.”
Our mission is our rallying cry.
The COVID-19 pandemic transformed healthcare by revealing the value of virtual health and accelerating the development and scaling of virtual health services. By March 2020, the true impact of COVID-19 was being felt in the United States and healthcare organizations were attempting to respond to the ominous crisis. While the healthcare industry was taking center stage in an attempt to contain the virus and save lives, the industry also had to navigate a shift in the delivery of care. Virtual channels for the delivery of care and virtual health services had been around for some time but were not widely adopted by healthcare organizations as they were not reimbursed on par with physical care encounters. However, as hospitals and acute care settings were grappling with the challenge of reduced elective surgeries and an estimated $323 billion in resulting losses while attending to surges of COVID-19 patients in their Intensive Care Units; ambulatory care clinics had to pivot to providing care virtually. The combined effect of these financial, scaling, and technological challenges placed a huge burden on health systems like CommonSpirit Health.
At its core, the business problem was to transition as much care to virtual channels as possible. As the organization came together to respond to the crisis, we rapidly developed the technology infrastructure while simultaneously making clinical and administrative process changes to accommodate this new medium of care delivery.
Firstly, we built a new model, not telehealth, but Virtual Health. A simple play on words, yet an effective innovation that energized our partners and resulted in a new model that continues to serve through several COVID-19 surges.
Secondly, we did not try to deliver perfect, we started with good. We recognized the immediate need and the urgency, and we developed a model that brought the human experience together with the digital experience and delivered a good synergistic outcome.
Thirdly, we meta-innovated by focusing our innovations on the points of handoff. Showing up for an appointment may seem easy online, but it involves complex processes and workflows that not only ensure our patient gets an appointment at a convenient time, but that they do so safely, with the deepest appreciation of their condition(s), and the stewardship of their private health data. This process also addresses what happens post-appointment with follow-ups, hospital care, or care at home.
Virtual Health has resulted in a unique and well-coordinated human and digital process that utilized the existing scheduling, registration, and Electronic Health Record services in tandem with easy-to-use digital conferencing technologies to deliver a seamless virtual care platform to CommonSpirit Health and its patients.
This platform and process was able to scale with agility with the COVID-19 surges, and since March 2020, has enabled 1.7 million virtual patient visits with high patient satisfaction ratings. From just around 2% of virtual visits pre-COVID, our transformed virtual health platform enabled more than 40% of our total ambulatory visits via virtual channels during the first peak of COVID-19.
Our efforts also extended into Acute, Post Acute, and Community Health; delivering new virtual health products such as Virtual ICU through which we delivered over 8,500 patient encounters and Virtual Companion through which we delivered 150,000+ virtual patient monitoring hours. To make this possible, we delivered over 10,000 pieces of virtual care equipment to our providers, a specialized support desk, and thousands of hours of training.
We thus provided care to our patients nationwide at a time when they might have avoided lifesaving care for fear of contracting COVID-19. We also offered our patients and clinicians a safe and frictionless experience using familiar technologies like Zoom.
The Virtual Health initiative has now delivered just over 1.7 million virtual ambulatory care visits at CommonSpirit Health and we continue to grow at an average rate of about 5,500 visits per day across our national health system. This service has delivered a significant positive rate of return financially, but most importantly, has delivered immeasurable lifesaving care to patients at a critical time for our nation, while also keeping our patients and care providers safe and protected from COVID-19.
At our first COVID-19 surge, we were delivering nearly 40% of our ambulatory care via virtual health. Even now, the percentage of our virtual health visits has stabilized at around 20% of our total ambulatory visit volume and we anticipate this to continue to grow into the future. This enables us to see more patients and reduce clinician burnout as the process time is much less with Virtual Health.
On average, across the various health insurance companies we transact with, we now earn around $150 per Virtual Health visit. Thus, this new and rapidly developed service of Virtual Health alone has accounted for over $195 million in revenue to CommonSpirit Health in just 10 months and continues to generate $15 million a month in revenue.
We built innovative solutions such as deep integrations into our EHR to simplify handoffs and minimize existing patient data collection. We developed real-time online provider search and scheduling so appointments could be made in minutes. We re-engineered video conferencing solutions like Zoom to deliver virtual health. We authored software that auto-generated Zoom sessions and links for each appointment and included the links in emails that completed patient handoffs to their clinicians.
The biggest challenge was time; or rather, the lack of it. We were facing a pandemic of unprecedented proportions and the spotlight was on us. We had to rapidly transform to save lives while keeping our clinicians and our staff safe from a virus we had not yet begun to fully understand. We had to disrupt our processes, our technologies, our lives; and meet our patients where they needed us at a time of great need. We had to put aside our differences of opinions, coallesce around a singular goal, and deliver an experience that had not yet been delivered in healthcare. We also had to mobilize budgets, apply for grants, and continuously engage with our care providers and business stakeholders through the year to ensure quality of care and experience. We did not just want to enable virtual visits, we wanted to deliver virtual vists in a way that could be described as a transformative experience - and our virtual health patient experience scores tell us we did. We also had to move a very large organization in one direction on a platform that many had tried in the past but had not yet fully embraced for many reasons – telehealth. And we knew it had to be one direction for the whole organization; even though we had disparate technology platforms and several human-driven processes as a very human-centric service industry.
We built an innovative new model for healthcare. Although other healthcare systems have developed virtual care and telehealth services during this time, very few have done so at our scale (1.7 million virtual health visits so far) and across 21 states.
This is not a common feat of human and digital engineering and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime event. This effort was borne out of a dire need to address one of the greatest challenges our nation (and the world) has ever faced.
About CommonSpirit Health
CommonSpirit Health is a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in 2019 by Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. With its national office in Chicago and approximately 150,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and practice clinicians, CommonSpirit operates 140 hospitals and more than 1,000 care sites across 21 states.