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Reimagining Community Health Systems Challenge to Deliver Telehealth to Underserved Areas Ends with Strategies for Expansion

Pyxera Global’s Reimagining Community Health Systems Challenge ended in September with U.S. Community Health Centers poised to play a stronger role in expanding telehealth services for 30 million low-income patients and plans created for forward-thinking remote patient monitoring systems in Iowa.

That’s a long way from the Challenge’s kick off in early August, when Pyxera Global brought together some of the world’s top innovators in medical technology and software development to address the yawning gap in telehealth services available in low-income U.S. communities that was exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winning solutions, announced September 4, recommended ways for the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) to leverage its partnerships and data analytics to more effectively push to expand telehealth services nationwide, and for the Iowa Primary Care Association (Iowa PCA) to launch a pilot for remote patient monitoring and form telehealth partnerships with private companies and nonprofits.

“This was an amazing experience,” said Suzie Moskal, a Memphis-based Senior IT Manager at the Medtronic medical technology company whose team developed the winning solution for NACHC.
“I learned a lot and it solidified my commitment to expanding access to healthcare.”

The six-week Reimagining Community Health Systems Challenge was the first in Pyxera Global’s Reimagine Series, a series of challenges geared toward turning problems wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic into opportunities to chart a stronger future for society—an effort that brings together Anchor Partners in a variety of fields and volunteers from participating corporations, many of them Fortune 500 companies.

The Anchor Partners for the Reimagining Community Health Systems Challenge were NACHC, the nation’s leading advocacy group for community-based health centers, and Iowa PCA, an umbrella group for 13 community health centers and a migrant health program in the state. The volunteer teams consisted of 40 employees from Medtronic, among the world’s largest medical technology, services and solutions companies; SAP, the world’s largest provider of enterprise application software; BD (Becton, Dickinson, and Company), another leading global medical technology company; and Celanese, a global chemical and specialty materials company.

This was an amazing experience. I learned a lot and it solidified my commitment to expanding access to healthcare. – Suzie Moskal, a Memphis-based Senior IT Manager at the Medtronic medical technology company

How the Challenge Worked 

The eight cross-corporate teams sat through a series of panel discussions with the Anchor Partners. Through these Voice of the Customer sessions, corporate employees better understood the barriers to telehealth for low-income and uninsured patients, which in rural areas, means little or no broadband or cellular access and, for many, no smartphones.

Each Anchor Partner provided insights, data, and stakeholder input to enable the teams to develop strategies to improve telehealth services for their patients at a time when the need for mental health services, diabetes treatment, and other preventive care has risen due to the pandemic.

For NACHC, the challenge was to create a clear business plan for how the organization positions itself in the telehealth landscape, including a strategy for putting the plan into effect. The Iowa PCA teams were asked to develop a roadmap that the organization could use to roll out consistent, high-quality telehealth services across its 13 community health centers.

The teams pitched their recommendations to a panel of eight judges—four representing the Anchor Partners and four from the Lead Sponsors—SAP, Medtronic, and the Medtronic Foundation.

“The entries were all strong,” the judges said, “They were evaluated on six criteria: Innovation, Social Impact, Sustainability, Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability. Each entry included a concept for a turnkey solution for telehealth in the form of a smartphone app and the creation of a national data exchange between community health centers and state and national partners.”

“I was so impressed with how much was covered within the time allotted,” said Tiffany Aquino, a Senior Manager for Strategic Initiatives at Medtronic, and one of the NACHC Challenge judges. “I hope the teams take away a new perspective on rapid innovation and are proud of contributing ideas and tools that are meaningful!”

The Winning Solutions

In the end, the R/Evolution Lifeline team emerged victorious in the NACHC Challenge and the Tele-Transformers team beat out its competitors in the Iowa PCA Challenge.

R/Evolution Lifeline created a four-part business plan for NACHC to elevate its role in expanding telehealth, by, among other things, leveraging population health management analytics, establishing national standards of care and best practices for its members, and uniting those members’ voices to advocate for legislation that would make it easier to treat patients through telehealth technologies.

The Tele-Transformers developed a plan for Iowa PCA members to focus more on chronic care management via telehealth, to develop partnerships with private companies and nonprofit organizations serving similar communities, and to launch remote patient monitoring systems that could help doctors detect ailments in their patients before they become major problems.

Each team took their task seriously, dedicating long hours to conduct research and develop marketing strategies to address a healthcare problem that many of the participants did not fully appreciate before joining the Reimagining Community Health Systems Challenge.

In the end, it was a friendly competition and the experience was rewarding. According to several participants, accomplishing a significant amount of work in a short amount of time without face-to-face interaction left them better equipped to engage in teamwork in a digital world.

6-12 Months of Effort in Four Weeks

Both Anchor Partners noted that all teams presented ideas and strategies that would have taken at least 6-12 months to achieve on their own and are eager to revive the challenge model when it comes to rolling out solutions.

A broader team of stakeholders are reviewing all the solutions presented by the teams, with an eye toward trends in ideas that can be incorporated into programming to create a “Version 2” of the winning strategies. The execution of the strategies, and their long-term impact, will be assessed by Pyxera Global in the summer of 2021.

“I am very appreciative of this opportunity,” said Christian Rogers, a Manager, Global Endpoint Engineering at Celanese who was part of the R/Evolution team. “We all connected so well that it feels like we have known each other for years and I look forward to continuing this relationship.”

Jennifer DerHovanesian, a Senior Solution Engineer at SAP who was part of the Tele-Transformers team, was equally thrilled about being able to collaborate with her team members. With one Reimagine Series victory under her belt, she is already looking ahead.

“When do we start the next one?!” DerHovanesian said.

Both Anchor Partners noted that all teams presented ideas and strategies that would have taken at least 6-12 months to achieve on their own and are eager to revive the challenge model when it comes to rolling out solutions.