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Case Study

How Providence Created a Unified and Deliberate Digital Strategy

10 Minute Read

Key Takeaways

The challenge

The health care industry is ripe for disruption, but many health systems don’t have a centralized function devoted to innovation. At Providence, digital innovation happened in silos for many years. The IT department didn’t handle digital innovation, so clinical and operational teams were left to execute on ideas independently. Limited innovation occurred because it was highly burdensome for teams. When it did happen, teams often pursued point solutions rather than products that could solve multiple problems for the wider organization.

The organization

Providence is a vertically-integrated, mission-based non-profit health care organization with 120,000 employees, 51 hospitals, and over 1,000 ambulatory care sites.

The approach

Providence recognized the need to streamline innovation in order to disrupt from within. They hired the industry’s first Chief Digital Officer (CDO) to lead a digital innovation group that creates products consumers want rather than technology infrastructure. They developed a standardized innovation process to first find and prioritize opportunities and then build or buy targeted digital solutions. As part of their innovation model, this group proactively works with the broader organization to identify problems which are then synthesized into the digital strategy.

The result

Through their innovation model, Providence has successfully commercialized two digital health companies, Circle and Xealth, and are in the process of launching a third. The digital innovation group is a strategic partner with the wider organization, and they’ve built an intentional digital strategy focused on solving problems.



How Providence created a unified and deliberate digital strategy

Providence founded the digital innovation group in 2014 to integrate disparate pockets of technology under one leader responsible for digital transformation. The group created an innovation model to understand and prioritize pain points that can be addressed with digital solutions. They thoughtfully surface ideas, build or buy solutions, and commercialize products. This process is the foundation for the organization’s digital strategy—that is, how the organization builds digital solutions to support consumers along their care journey.


The Four Elements

These four elements allowed Providence to create an intentional digital strategy.

  • Element

    Focus digital innovation on consumer products

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  • Element

    Grow the business, not the infrastructure

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  • Element

    Invest in ongoing problem identification

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  • Element

    Create a common framework to prioritize and solve problems

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Today, digital is a strategic asset for Providence. The digital innovation group is a close and constant strategic partner with all departments, and they use digital as a lever to solve a wide range problems. Their digital strategy is derived from problems and refined through their innovation model.

Because they have a problem-focused and product-oriented strategy, they’ve been able to sell internal digital solutions to the external market. They’ve successfully launched two independent companies with a third on the way.

  • Circle is an EHR-integrated women’s health app for expectant mothers. It was acquired by the family health company Wildflower Health in 2018.
  • Xealth is an end-to-end prescribing platform that connects digital vendors to a hospital’s EHR to seamlessly deliver digital tools to patients.
  • DexCare is a same-day scheduling platform for telehealth and remote consults. It is currently going through the commercialization process.


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