Inside DIG

Catching Up with Justin Dearborn, Executive-in-Residence for Praia Health

October 2, 2023  |  Providence Digital Innovation Group

Startup veteran Justin Dearborn recently joined Providence to serve as Executive-in-Residence for Praia Health, the fourth technology incubated within the Providence Digital Innovation Group. We caught up with Justin to hear his thoughts about the opportunity ahead and his reasons for taking the helm.

Q:        Well, this is a big move for you. What excited you most about Praia Health?

It is, and one I’m very excited about. There were a number of data points that I was impressed with, but two things really excited me the most.

First, I truly believe that this technology has the chance to be transformational for health systems and health care in general. Health Systems have been hampered in their ability to digitally connect with customers in a meaningful way because the technical environment they operate within is clinically-oriented, resource-intensive and change resistant. By decoupling consumer-identity from the EMR, Praia Health unlocks a whole new class of consumer connections through digital—and unleashes the ability for health systems to utilize digital experience strategically, rather than as a tactical cost center. I like to work on things that can truly have an impact and I believe Praia Health can drive real health care transformation.

Second, there was enormous universal validation of the problem, value, and approach—through every stage of the development process. This team conducts deep ‘voice of the customer’ research—talking directly to potential health systems buyers—and it is evident that health systems really need this platform. But the depth and breadth of value the platform is providing here at Providence—in just the first 18 months of use—really excited me. Providence has over three and a half million accounts on the platform and conservatively saw over $20M in value in the first year after implementation. Today, Providence is seeing value across the organization with 8 different lines of business utilizing the platform including use cases for: ExpressCare, Population Health, RevCycle, Wellness, Chronic Care Delivery, Health Education, and eventually even Spiritual Health.

These are proof points that just can’t be ignored.

Q:        What are some of the key ingredients for success?

I think we must articulate the remarkable value proposition of this technology properly. While the idea of a ‘digital flywheel” in other consumer-facing industries (finance, retail, ecommerce) is not novel, it’s a brand-new concept for most health systems. Because of complex technology and security constraints, health systems haven’t really had the option to use digital experiences to individually guide people toward the right services, programs, and resources in a systematic way. So, some of our job will be evangelizing a new space—a new solution category.

Additionally, because of the strategic importance of our solution, the secure nature of an identity-based platform, and the extensibility of what we’re doing, we want to work alongside our future customers as long-term partners in a highly collaborative manner. This is not a volume-based departmental point solution business, by any means, so we expect to build deep, trust-based relationships that expand and grow over time. Our first customers will be  forward-thinking health systems that understand the strategic importance of digital transformation—which assures we’re driving clear value and enables us to learn, grow and extend in ways that are important to our customers.

Q:        What has your experience been so far with Providence as an incubator?  

As I’ve moved through my career, I’ve been fortunate to be able to gravitate towards businesses that are mission-driven, important to the world, democratizing even—and Praia Health is no exception. I love the fact that Praia Health was incubated within Providence—a truly mission-based organization. That grounding truly makes a difference. Working hard to solve hard problems becomes much easier in this type of environment. It’s something I personally enjoy and gravitate toward.

And then there is the proven incubation model that the Digital Innovation Group has developed within Providence. From beginning to end the process is geared around making big, greenfield solutions for health systems a reality through a business model that is highly scalable. I have the success stories of DexCare and Xealth to follow and learn from, clinical and operational experts at my fingertips, and an impressive commercialization team that has the expertise, partnerships, and go-to-market know-how on how that’s required. And of course, having Providence as ‘customer zero’ is remarkable. All this really accelerates the maturity of the offering the organization can commercialize.

Q:        Can you talk about timing a bit? Why Praia Health now?  

My experience is that health care organizations have been talking about consumerism for almost a decade but have made little forward progress towards the goal. Just when it appeared real progress was at hand, the pandemic delayed the vast majority of digital health innovation. One area that saw historic adoption was virtual care, which also helps pave the way for additional virtual and digital adoption.

What’s different today is that the threats to health systems are no longer theoretical. With health consumers utilizing an average of five different provider services—disruption is real. The clinical workforce shortage is tragic, very real and not going way. And new digital experience expectations for health services are real given that consumers now have many more care choices—in fact, we know people will change providers based upon their digital experience with that provider alone. So today there is real competitive urgency around solving the problems that Praia Health addresses.

Even more importantly, we now know that delivering better health outcomes is dependent upon factors beyond the clinical encounter. Studies show that just 10-20% of modifiable contributors to healthy outcomes are associated with medical care alone—with behavioral, socio-economic, and environmental factors filling in the balance. Mission-based Health Systems have wonderful programs and support for these contributors but struggle to operationally integrate those services into the consumer experience today.

Providence saw these factors coming to a head and created Praia Health to stay out of the “disruption zone” and transform their own system in the future. Sometimes it takes a crisis to drive the urgency and focus to make significant change and drive transformative opportunity. I think that’s the case with Praia Health.


Follow Justin Dearborn on LinkedIn
Read Justin Dearborn’s Biography here.
Follow Praia Health here.
Follow the Providence Digital Innovation Group here.