Community Health Systems to expand virtual sitting to 29 hospitals

Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems plans to expand virtual sitting to 29 hospitals as the program has been successful in preventing patient falls.

The 78-hospital system started piloting the sitting platform from telehealth company AvaSure in 2021 at two locations. The program later expanded to 15 CHS hospitals in Arkansas, Indiana and Tennessee, and the health system plans to roll it out at another 12 facilities by the end of 2023. No patients in the program reported any falls with injuries in 2022.

"We really are able to clearly create some efficiencies and redeploy caregivers back to the bedside," Lynn Simon, MD, president of healthcare innovation and chief medical officer of Community Health Systems, told Becker's.

Remote "sitters" operate out of a CHS hospital in Tennessee, each monitoring 12 to 16 high-risk patients at a time for signs they might be getting up or otherwise be in danger of a fall. The cameras are rolled into the patient rooms.

"They have eyes on the patients at all times," Dr. Simon said of the sitters. "There's also two-way audio, so the person watching can audio into the room and talk and have a conversation with the patient, ask them if they're uncomfortable, remind them to stay in bed. That conversation seems to be the difference. It's more than just alerting the nurse — that does happen when the patient appears to be trying to get out of bed — but it's really about the back-and-forth communication with the patient that helps keep them safe and keeps them from falling."

Since implementing the program, the health system has experienced up to a 76 percent drop in falls at some hospitals, Dr. Simon said.

Community Health Systems' big bet on virtual sitting comes at a time when many health systems are going all in on virtual nursing. CHS has had some "small" virtual nursing pilots, helping with things like patient admission and discharge, but is still in the "exploration stages" for that model, Dr. Simon said.

"The biggest value that we're seeing that we've been able to scale is the virtual sitting, but we do intend to continue to iterate with our other virtual nursing opportunities," she said.

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