posted by Darcy Lewis
on July 26, 2017
Providence St. Joseph Health in Seattle is driving innovation in its digital space. The health system includes 50 hospitals, 829 clinics, 23,000 physicians, and nearly 2 million covered patients. This mission of Providence St. Joseph Chief Digital Officer Aaron Martin and his team is to discover important digital innovations, demonstrate that they work, and bring them to scale. Martin spoke recently at AHIP’s Institute & Expo in Austin.
The Providence St. Joseph product development process starts by identifying large problems for which a solution would be economically or clinically valuable to the system. Then, a technology cascade follows in which the team determines whether the system already owns or is planning the necessary technology. If they don’t own it, the team will go to market to look for available solutions. “If we can’t find it, then and only then do we build it,” he says.
Next, they create an MVP – minimally viable product – the “slimmest” product possible that solves the problem. Then, the MVP will go through enough iterations to become a full-featured product, at which time, it will be scaled throughout the system.
The Providence St. Joseph Health Digital Strategy
Martin, a former Amazon executive, described his digital strategy in three key steps: entice, engage, and scale.
Entice – The Providence St. Joseph team strives to create a digital experience that is at least 10 times better than what patients have experienced previously trying to complete the same task.
“Folks won’t change their behavior if the new experience is only marginally better,” Martin said.
Engage – Once the customer is online, how do you ensure they come back? Martin noted that the episodic nature of health care is challenging in terms of creating meaningful repeat engagement, compared with industries like banking or shopping, which consumers may use multiple times per week.
Scale – Patients who have been enticed online and engaged once there create multiple benefits for the health system, including:
So what does digital innovation look like at Providence St. Joseph? It may look familiar, and that’s intentional. For example, the Swedish Hospital scheduling app looks like the OpenTable app many consumers have used before. Its Express Care Virtual app for remote consults via telehealth resembles a video-calling technology users are comfortable with, FaceTime.
And when patients in Seattle or Southern California need care for a non-life threatening problem but can’t easily drive to a Providence clinic, they can use the Express Care at Home app to set up a house call from a Providence provider. Patients may find that the app’s interface reminds them of Uber.
These innovative apps work in conjunction to scale Providence St. Joseph’s reach. The scheduling app maximizes the local draw for each clinic (the so-called catchment area, which is about five miles) for in-person visits, while the Express Care at Home app caters to patients outside the clinic catchment radius but who are in a densely populated area. And the Express Care Virtual app covers the health system’s entire service area – usually the entire state.
“This model creates a ‘convenient’ patient-centered medical home that encourages consumers to choose non-physician providers for low-acuity, simple health problems that don’t require a physician,” Martin told AHIP. “Providers end up practicing at the top of their license, consumers love the choice, and it’s all connected via a single electronic medical record to maintain a continuum of care.”
Martin offered two additional examples of meaningful innovation at Providence St. Joseph: Circle and Xealth. Circle is a personalized platform aimed at expectant mothers. “If we engage these young women throughout their lives, they’ll be lower cost to care for because the outcomes will be better and they’ll be more loyal to our health system,” he said. Since Circle was introduced some Providence hospitals have doubled the number of babies born there who continue to receive care in family practice, and research is underway to determine if their mothers are experiencing improved maternal outcomes.
Xealth, a Providence St. Joseph creation that allows clinician to “prescribe” products or services directly from the EMR, has received its first round of funding. “The patient will receive a message from their provider that asks them to, say, read a specific article about their condition, so the patient then comes back to our platform to engage,” Martin explained.
“I don’t want to build the world’s best diabetes education app because it’s already out there and I can now link to it on my Xealth platform,” said Martin. “What I do want is to keep our patients engaged and coming back, online and in person, to improve their health, lower our cost to serve them, and better utilize our caregivers’ scarce time.”