How Providence St. Joseph Health is forming an engaged digital relationship with patients: Q&A with Chief Digital Officer Aaron Martin

As the executive vice president and chief digital officer of Providence St. Joseph Health Aaron Martin is responsible for the health system's digital, web, mobile and online marketing channels.

He is also the force behind the health system's innovation programs as a managing general partner of Providence Ventures, a $300 million investment fund focused on early stage, venture technology and medical device investments. Mr. Martin has previous experience as general manager of Amazon's self-publishing and print-on-demand business, CreateSpace.

Here, he discusses his top priorities at Providence St. Joseph and how his role will evolve in the future.

Question: What is your No. 1 priority as the chief digital and innovation officer of Providence St. Joseph?

Aaron Martin: Move our patients from an offline, infrequent, episodic 'sick care' relationship with Providence St. Joseph Health to a highly engaged digital relationship in which we're helping our patients improve their health on a daily basis. We're doing this through digital convenience, personalization, and engagement tools we've invested in and built. We’re creating the same convenience patients see in the rest of their digital lives via online scheduling, video visits, and digital engagement platforms. After working on the problem for five years, I am amazed at what our team has achieved and humbled by how far we have to go!

Q: How have you approached building your team and fostering a culture of innovation within the health system?

AM: My team consists of a digital software engineering/product innovation team that is a mix of highly experienced health professionals and folks from technology (Amazon, Microsoft, etc.); Providence Ventures, our $300 million venture fund composed eight very experienced health tech investment professionals; and a team of digital marketing professionals with deep experience in healthcare and high-tech including Amazon and T-Mobile. I'm very proud of the team we've built here at Providence.

We engage very closely with our health system teams: operations, clinical, IS, etc. We work with these teams to stack rank problem/opportunities based on their impact on the quadruple aim. We then determine if we already own a digital solution that will help solve the problem/opportunity. If not, Providence Ventures and our partner AVIA will scan the technology market for 'best of breed' solutions that may solve the problem. This is where 15 of the 17 Providence Ventures portfolio companies come from in which we've invested. These portfolio companies provide solutions to the problems and opportunities we've worked with and our health system colleagues have prioritized. If we don't have a solution, and can't find it through a market scan, then and only then we will build a company to solve the problem. This is where the remaining two Providence Ventures portfolio companies come from: internal incubation. We've done this twice before: Xealth, a platform that allows a physician to prescribe anything from the EMR (App, Lyft ride, products off Amazon, etc.) and Circle, a women’s health personalization platform we sold to Wildflower Health who was doing something similar with payers and employers.

We're now working on our third spinout DexCare which is a same-day care platform that allows patients to schedule in-clinic, on demand virtual visits, or summon a care provider to the home for low-acuity conditions.

Q: What type of patient engagement are you seeing with virtual visits and remote care? What is the return on investment for these initiatives?

AM: We're seeing rapid growth in virtual visits as a result of our DexCare platform, which powers our ExpressCare clinic offering in our Washington and Oregon markets. Over 60 percent of our patients who use our Express Care clinics (powered by DexCare) schedule their visits online. With respect to virtual visits, we're seeing about 10 percent of those visits online and that number is climbing. Finally, patients love the convenience of the platform. We're seeing NPS scores in the 70s. We'll soon spinout DexCare as we have Xealth and Circle/Wildflower and are currently engaged with several health systems about their commercial interest in the DexCare platform.

Q: How do you see your role evolving in the future?

AM: An outside point of view is important as healthcare can get pretty insular. For instance, I'm a member of an organization, Digital 50, in which the chief digital officers from various large corporations from different industries (retail, financial services, travel, etc.) meet twice a year. It's been extremely valuable to compare notes with my peers from other industries and understand how they've overcome some of the challenges our industry faces with digital transformation today.

My role will probably follow the same path that chief digital officers from these other industries have and we're seeing similar opportunities in healthcare as exist in other industries. Things we see on the near horizon: broadening partnerships with large technology firms, extension/strengthening of our brand digitally, implementation of AI serving both caregivers and patients, building and commercializing new technologies where we find gaps in the market, and continuing to invest heavily in digital convenience and engagement.

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