Becker's 10th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 3 Questions with Aaron Martin, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer for Providence St. Joseph Health

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Aaron Martin, MBA, serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer for Providence St. Joseph Health. 

On April 4th, Aaron will speak at Becker's Hospital Review 10th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place April 1-4, 2019 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Aaron's session, click here.

Question: What do innovators/entrepreneurs from outside healthcare need to better understand about hospital and health system leaders?

Aaron Martin: At more than $3.2 trillion in annual national health expenditures, the US health care industry is massive. It is just smaller than the size of the entire economy of Germany ($3.5 trillion) and is larger than Britain’s ($3.0 trillion). Given that size and complexity, health system leaders need to focus on ideas with scale. This can be challenging because it’s easy to get distracted by very valuable innovations that if brought to scale may not move the needle or be a top priority. So entrepreneurs really need to understand the depth of the problem, its impact within a health system and how their particular solution can create large change at scale. It’s part of why we look at our VC arm, Providence Ventures, as a strategic VC that not only provides funding but offers strategic counsel on the issues that are deeply affecting healthcare and health systems and how innovations can/need to scale to really be successful. It is also why we’ve published what our priority areas are so we can give a clear signal to the venture market about what our top priorities are as a large health system.

Q: Healthcare takes a lot of heat for not innovating quickly. What's your take on this?

AM: There are certainly complexities that slow health care down. It’s a highly regulated industry (with good reason as we’re dealing with people’s health) that is also a complex services industry. Things are hard to scale in that environment. That said, we’ve seen focusing on the right “needle moving” problems, the right mix of people (technology + healthcare), and the right processes can make a difference. After 4 years, we feel we’re getting traction in these three areas around digital. We’ve done this by not only innovating internally, but also recruiting from outside industry and meeting with other health systems. Over the past 24 months, we’ve met in Seattle with over 90 other health systems to trade notes on how we’re approaching these problems.

Q: Can you share some praise with us about people you work with? What does greatness look like to you when it comes to your team?

AM: Providence St. Joseph Health was founded by women on a mission over 150 years ago. In fact, we think PSJH may be the longest continuously serving organization in the US founded by women. We also serve women. They are our principle customer and make 90% of all health care decisions. They are also the majority of our caregivers at PSJH today. That’s something I’ve been conscious of while building our team and continuing our tradition of incredible women on a mission leading our organization. We have some amazingly talented women from the tech industry and healthcare industry on my team who are leading transformation through the Digital Innovation Group. Our Chief Digital Strategy Officer Sara Vaezy who has a deep experience in health care has pushed us further, faster because of her industry knowledge and expertise. Our head of product, Maryam Gholami, who hails from Microsoft is another example of a passionate, smart and innovative leader focused on customer experience. Finally, Shweta Ponnappa who runs digital experience and hails from Amazon is an incredibly innovative marketer. We have many many other women and men on our team who also are exemplars of the type of team members we want to recruit: smart, passionate, dedicated and energized. The list is too long, but those are just a few examples. We want people who come to work every day with a purpose. For them, this needs to be a calling, not a job. Just like our founding sisters.

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