Digital Innovation

COVID-19: Providence Calls Healthcare Innovators to Make a Difference in the Pandemic

July 23, 2020  |  Providence Digital Innovation Group

We’ve all seen the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the public, the risk to our front-line clinicians and essential workers, racial disparities, and the negative impact on the economy. It has been harrowing and tragic. We are, sadly, only at the beginning stages with second surges now occurring across the country. Providence, one of the largest health systems in the country, has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic along with the rest of the industry. In response, health systems like Providence halted nearly all other activities as they reacted to surges in COVID-related cases and tried to understand how to serve the community during the pandemic. COVID-19 also exposed the rigidity and weaknesses of the healthcare industry as a whole. None of these weaknesses was a surprise, the pandemic just put them in stark relief.

This crisis has also catalyzed the health care industry toward new, rapidly-emerging, clinical and operating models enabled by digital technologies.

COVID-19 has catalyzed change along two vectors for health systems like Providence. First, is related to the mobilization of resources to respond to the initial viral outbreak and ongoing mitigation to reduce the impact of future outbreaks. Second, has been a profound impact on the business models of health systems. Health systems will need to accelerate risk-based business model changes, while they attempt to recover their traditional business. In other words, health systems need to transition to a model where they are paid to keep a population healthy versus being paid for the activity of treating them when they are sick — and they should be incented based on their ability to do so as measured by patient outcomes. These changes are driving a second-order set of impacts on the healthcare ecosystem while creating opportunities for the acceleration of technology adoption and new innovations. Digital will play a key role in these trends.

To that end, we’ve published the Providence Digital Innovation Group COVID-19 Digital Insight Report Series. Based on interviews with over 100 industry experts both within and outside of Providence, these reports contain key changes we anticipate in healthcare and where the opportunities for digital innovation reside.

As health systems emerge from crisis and response-mode, the areas of focus and opportunity for digital innovation are becoming clear for health systems like Providence. The industry will need innovative solutions that:

·       Manage Trust & Safety to help individuals assess risk and make decisions, support a safe return to work for employees, and promote a reliable source of truth for testing and immunity tracking.

·       Evolve the Business Model Toward Value by helping push affordability, accessibility, personalization, and simplified care for commercially insured and self-pay patients while supporting the movement to alternative payment models and value-based care for Medicare- and Medicaid-insured people.

·       Enable Distributed Care Models including telehealth, remote patient monitoring, hospital at home, and virtual chronic disease management while unlocking and leveraging new data insights fueled by bringing more care online.

·       Align with Industry Consolidation including integration and referral management platforms as well as those supporting consolidation driven by business model evolution.

·       Support New Workforce & Facility Models allowing flexibility and adaptation across geographies and modalities of care while opening up new possibilities for technology-augmented or supported workforce.

·       Extend Supply Chain Models including internal data and management tools as well as models for extending the supply chain to support distributed care in non-centralized settings.

·       Support Care for Vulnerable People and Under-Resourced Communities to eliminate disparities in care delivery, take into account social risk factors and their role in overall health, and promote health equity.

·       Deliver Behavioral Health Care at Scale by providing leverage to and re-engineering under-resourced behavioral health supply and services.

In subsequent GeekWire articles, we’ll dive deeper into the technology opportunities presented by these domains and highlight specific areas starting with our point of view on enabling and sustaining distributed care delivery models.

The biggest disruptor in healthcare, like education, travel, and countless other industries, is COVID-19. The hard lift of patient and provider adoption of new digital technology has been accomplished by the pandemic. It forced the industry’s hand to move in weeks toward digital what was otherwise projected to take years. COVID-19 has also lowered barriers to entry for industry disruptors by showing patients they can safely be served via digital technology. This situation creates a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, and industry innovators in healthcare to have an impact.

Arguably, there has never been a time in health care when the opportunity for technology to make such a profound difference in the lives of people has been so evident. At Providence, our foundresses, the sisters of Providence and St. Joseph, innovated best during hard times- including the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. If you share our mission to help people, this is the time that we need you most — whether you join us, partner with us, or simply share your best thinking. Whether you’re an innovator, entrepreneur or investor, we invite you to engage in the conversation with us, critique our ideas, and highlight opportunity areas we may have overlooked. We look forward to the conversation and updating you on our thinking in the coming weeks and months.


This article utilizes content from the COVID-19 Digital Insight Report Series published by the Providence Digital Innovation Group. Providence is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems and was also the first system in the United States to care for a COVID-19 patient in January 2020. These reports couple direct experience with primary research conducted through over 100 interviews with health system, technology, and innovation leaders from within Providence and across the healthcare industry.

Through the publication of these reports, Providence hopes to offer new insight, promote collaboration and discussion around the impact of COVID-19 on health systems, and examine the role digital innovation will play as we move through recovery and into the next normal. Full reports can be downloaded at www.providence-dig.org/resource-center.