Fending Off Outside Disruption through Collaboration

April 6, 2021 Marcee Chmait

Health systems provide nearly $2 trillion[1] dollars of healthcare each year. We are a big, fragmented and highly regulated industry. Up until recently, health systems have operated very locally delivering in-person care at brick and mortar locations. Local and regional health care often meant that health systems took on all of the work to innovate and scale solutions within their markets.

However, with the catalysts such as COVID-19, big technology companies entering health care and intensive consumer demand for digital care, systems are no longer looking inward. They are looking to their industry peers for guidance and collaboration.

These market forces have provided a new environment for collaboration. By bringing regional health systems together to leverage their local strengths our industry is embracing digital to help us scale to play offense and remain competitive. This new “go national through digital to grow locally” is bringing once very clannish relationships into partnering discussions.

The Providence Digital Innovation Group (DIG) started a tradition just over five years ago, to invite other health systems to engage in deep conversations on digital health. Our goal is simple; support our colleagues in their journeys to become digitally ready in preparation for the digital tsunami facing all of us. We accomplish this goal through various interactive forums, where we openly share intellectual property, collaborate on solving problems and scaling solutions, as well as generate thought leadership for industry transformation.

How we organize collaboration for success

Forum One: The Site Visit

Since 2017, Providence’s Digital Innovation Group has hosted more than 150 health systems in our Seattle office and most recently online (due to COVID). Health systems bring their executive teams in to learn about our model for digital innovation, the platforms and technologies needed to make the end-to-end consumer experience highly valued and tips for how to navigate the complexities of introducing digital solutions into traditional clinical workflows. In return, health systems share their digital strategies and roadmaps. The outcome of these meetings often results in collaboration through commercialization opportunities and co-development initiatives to accelerate digital enablement.

Forum Two: Trading Notes Sessions

In between formal site visits, DIG and our health system partners seek out information on a variety of topics. These are 30-minute rapid fire sessions where two health systems seek to “trade notes” to really understand the goals, metrics, implications, and challenges around solving specific digital issues or discuss how technologies work for specific use cases. For example, DIG’s strategy team met with a Midwestern system on how they are solving for mental health by the deployment of a cognitive behavioral health tool. We learned that our respective systems are using the tool in three different ways based on the problems we are trying to solve and the opportunities in the market.

Use Case

Problem to Solve/Opportunity

Desired Outcome

Employee wellness and mindfulness

Keep employees mentally healthy and happy

Reduced turnover, better patient care

Existing patients that have a mental health diagnosis

To provide supportive care between visits

Better access, improved outcomes

All people within the community

To create better access to behavioral health for everyone

Mission of serving more patients and making new connections

Providence has deployed the application for the first two use cases while the Midwest system is applying the tool for the third use case. Providence had not considered the third use case prior to this trading notes session. With this new information in hand, we are revisiting if a community application can help expand upon our strategy. Ultimately, the goal of trading notes is to augment our thinking so we will continue to innovate and scale digital solutions.

Forum Three: Thought Leadership

Through our site visits and trading notes sessions, DIG has developed deep and meaningful industry relationships with senior health system leaders and other industry experts. As COVID became a new reality that our entire industry needed to deal with, Providence’s Digital Innovation Group set out to learn how other health systems and industry leaders were looking at how COVID would forever alter our industry.

DIG tapped into our relationships and conducted more than 100 interviews with health system, technology, and innovation leaders from within Providence and across the health care industry to gain insights on their perspectives of industry changes. These interviews resulted in 11 Digital Insight Reports. Our goal was to broadly share this new information with everyone so we could all work together to promote collaboration and examine the role digital innovation will play as we move through recovery and into the next normal.


In sharing our intellectual property, scaling digital through collaboration, and making insights widely available, the Providence Digital Innovation Group strives to enable health systems to compete in an ever-changing digital first ecosystem. Technology companies are positioned to disrupt the traditional care delivery system. As an industry we must play offense to fend off disruption through new forms of collaboration.

If you are interested in connecting with us contact me at marcee.chmait@providence.org.



[1] https://www.ama-assn.org/about/research/trends-health-care-spending

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