Digital in action: Easing the burden of cold and flu season


In this article:

  • A new initiative from Providence aims to empower patients to self-schedule multiple ways to get care, like telehealth, in-person primary care and urgent care.

  • Providence ExpressCare offers patients options to be seen for a range of common ailments, from colds and the flu to upset stomachs and sinus infections.

  • Learn how Providence’s Digital Innovation Group is making cold and flu season a little easier with same-day appointment options, where and how you need them.

When you or your loved ones are sick with a cold or the flu, waiting days for a doctor’s appointment doesn’t feel like an option. Providence knows that getting care quicker means you can get back to feeling better faster. That’s why Providence’s Digital Innovation Group developed a new way to book appointments through the Providence app.

“We saw that patients expect to be able to receive care beyond their doctor’s offices,” says Andy Chu, the senior vice president of product and technology incubation for Providence. “Especially when patients are sick, they want to see a provider on their own terms, on their own time. We have to meet our patients where they are.”

More convenient care, when and where you need it

With a project dubbed “Providence ExpressCare Capacity Optimization,” the Digital Innovation Group is matching open appointments and available schedules to patients with specific concerns and preferences. The app, then, displays the correct appointment types that are open for self-serve booking. Patients can self-serve to create appointments when, where and how it is convenient for them and see more information, like available times, locations and providers, to help them navigate the system.

Chu and his team worked on bringing several modalities of care, such as telehealth, urgent care and in-person primary care visits, into a single platform. For example, in one view within the Providence app, patients can:

  • Find a primary care provider and make an appointment with them.
  • Have a virtual visit on demand.
  • Locate nearby urgent care facilities, view wait times and book a time slot to be seen.

“We’re helping patients understand how they can engage with us as a health system,” says Chu. “If people are not comfortable coming into a clinic in person or want to receive care when it’s convenient for them, we are here to help with the technology and platform to get them what they need.”

Patients can be seen through Providence ExpressCare for conditions like:

  • Allergies
  • Colds
  • Coughs and sore throats
  • Fevers
  • Headaches
  • Pink eye
  • Rashes or hives
  • Sinus infections
  • The flu
  • Upset stomachs, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Yeast infections

“We created these digital products to help Providence engage with patients,” says Chu. “It’s why digital engagement and enablement is a strategic pillar for how we are delivering care moving forward.”

Creating a patient-first booking experience

Providence is uniquely positioned to provide this care for patients because the system has many assets, including different ways to provide care, content that educates patients heading into cold and flu season, and wellness programs that keep them feeling their best.

“Part of our value is that we are bringing all these different experiences into a single, cohesive platform for our patients,” says Chu. “We provide that experience in a more personalized way for our community.”

The Digital Innovation Group built these experiences with the patient in mind and with input from patients and those supporting them.

“We work with our patients and caregivers to understand how they are using health care services and what they prefer when receiving care,” says Chu. “We let patients be the judge for the type of services they are looking for and how they want to receive them, thereby meeting patients where they are.

“By digitizing booking, we bring a real-time view of what appointments are available upfront for patients,” says Chu. “They can then book on their own terms.”

Much of the challenge of bringing this innovation to patients was the backend technology powering the app, including pulling each patient’s identity from their MyChart account to power personalized recommendations.

“From a patient’s perspective, we want to offer a single sign-on to the Providence app and MyChart, which offers a more seamless experience,” says Chu. “That means pulling from different systems into the single interface of the Providence app.”

Same-day appointments better meet patients where they are – especially if they are feeling sick from colds, the flu or other conditions.

“We live in a world where we expect food delivery to be here within an hour,” says Chu. “Health care is no different. Patients want what they want now. They want information and they know how they want to receive care. The ability for us to provide information is important for our system to engage with patients and communities.”

These digital experiences add to the existing brick-and-mortar experiences Providence offers across its sites.

“Our facilities aren’t going away, but the digital experience is an integral part of how we deliver care for in-person as well. It’s not an ‘either-or’ but an ‘and’ for how we serve our community.”

To see these new digital capabilities in action, download the Providence app and sign in using your Providence or MyChart credentials. You can also create a Providence account if you don’t have one, which will give you access to both the Providence app and MyChart. Inside the app, you’ll find a robust digital experience personalized to you — including all of your care options in one place, personalized programs, service and resource recommendations, self-service support, and navigation capabilities.

Contributing Caregiver



Andy Chu is the senior vice president of product and technology incubation for Providence.

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Related resources

Digital in action: Bringing your health care into the digital age

Download the Providence app for care at your fingertips

Growing from within: Why Providence incubates tech companies

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

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