What health systems can learn from Starbucks on patient engagement: Q&A with Providence's Sara Vaezy

Sara Vaezy, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Renton, Wash.-based Providence, told Becker's that health systems can learn from giants such as Starbucks and Amazon about personalizing patients' experiences with their healthcare organizations, and one way Providence is doing this is by creating identity-driven engagement to tailor its services to individual consumers. 

Question: You posed the question: What can healthcare learn from Starbucks? Can you tell me more about that?

Sara Vaezy: Companies like Starbucks and Amazon have done really well at connecting buyers and sellers. In our case, it's connecting the clinician and the patient, or the system to the consumer with things such as content, information, tools and services.

Patients are going to be online and they are interested in various different channels. We need to personalize and tailor our reach to consumers and meet them where they are, just like Starbucks does with its mobile application and rewards programs. 

If we can create really good experiences with our patients through different channels, we can create customer loyalty. This will encourage more people to want to come back and engage with us. 

Q: How can digital technologies help patients interact with health systems beyond just taking care of medical needs?

SV: Whether it's an app, website or a texting platform, all of those things can deliver all sorts of non-sick care to patients. For example, digital technologies can help patients navigate which  services might be most relevant to them, or provide them with additional healthcare content and information they may need to answer pressing questions. 

Q: How is Providence using digital technologies to make it easier for patients to engage in their own care?

SV: The Providence app is where a lot of these digital experiences are happening, and what's behind the app is something we are building called "identity driven engagement." This allows us to understand all of our users on a personal level and provide them with personalized and tailored experiences. 

For example, when our users are logged in, we can send them reminders about their annual exams or flu shots. We do this by first creating the person's identity and their profiles and then we can sync their accounts together. 

We then do federation, which is like what Google does with single sign-ins, where patients can use a single sign on for healthcare, but it's pretty complex and we have to be careful on how we build this. 

Second is profile. Profile connects the dots about users based on things such as clinical information, how you're interacting with our organization via the web, as well as demographic information. This is what helps connect Providence's various experiences to the consumer in a more individualized way. 

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