Five Ways Providence is Preparing for the Future

Though there is a lot of change and uncertainty in health care these days, I believe this is one of the most pivotal and exciting times to work in our field. That’s because every assumption we’ve ever made about health care is being turned on its head. Physician groups are now running insurance companies. The big drug store chains are offering primary care. And start-up companies are vying to develop that next great app that revolutionizes the way all of us access health care. Everything is up for grabs.

We are also learning what it means to live in an interconnected world. We have seen Ebola and MERS travel across the globe in an instant, which means we need to be ready at all times to protect and care for our caregivers and communities in the event these pathogens arrive in the towns we serve. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, clinical researchers are unlocking other mysteries like the human genome, which is the Rosetta Stone of disease and chronic illness. Thanks to advances in genomic medicine, we are closer than ever before to finding a cure for cancer.

Staying Relevant in Today’s World

So what is Providence’s role in this time of unprecedented change? As the third largest not-for-profit health system in the country, we have a responsibility to lead the transformation on behalf of those we serve.

Sitting on the sidelines and waiting for others to define the future is not an option for a Mission-driven organization like ours. We are called to respond to the times and continuously improve the way we serve those in need even if it means pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

I reflect on companies like Radio Shack, which has been in the news lately because it’s teetering on bankruptcy. Once the go-to store for electronics, the company seems to have lost touch with its customers and fallen behind the times. Today, nearly every device Radio Shack sold back in its heyday has been replaced by a mobile app. Calculators, video cameras, tape recorders and answering machines can all be done on a smart phone. Technology has changed everything in the blink of an eye.

That is why Providence is developing new solutions and competencies to help us stay connected and relevant to patients and consumers. A few examples include our new:

  • Venture fund to partner with start-up companies so we can co-develop apps and other innovations that improve health care.
  • Whole-genome sequencing lab to understand tumors at the molecular level so we can offer highly personalized treatments and help more patients fight cancer.
  • Institute for Human Caring to help us improve care through the end of life by caring for the whole person, not just the medical diagnosis.
  • Diverse family of affiliates (Swedish, Facey, Kadlec, PacMed, Saint John’s) to strengthen our commitment to the Western United States.

How We Are Aligning for the Future

To help us prepare for the future, we are aligning around five strategic areas of focus.

  1. Population health – Partnering with employers and payers to improve the health of large groups, such as the work we are doing with Boeing, Oregon state employees and the Medicare Shared Savings Program.
  2. Acute care – Coordinating specialty service lines across Providence into system-wide institutes, knowing there will always be a need for hospitals and tertiary and quaternary care.
  3. The Providence Clinic – Organizing our medical groups and independent physician partners as a front door for helping people manage their health, a concept akin to national brands like Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
  4. Beyond our four walls – Delivering care through digital technology, investing in home care, palliative care and the rest of the continuum, and providing other social support through our housing and education ministries.
  5. Shared services – Sharing administrative services rather than duplicating them from region to region to ensure we can devote more resources to direct patient care and access for the poor and vulnerable.

True to Who We Are

We wouldn’t be true to our pioneering heritage if we didn’t have the courage to challenge the status quo and imagine new and better ways of delivering care to our communities. That’s what the Sisters of Providence did when they journeyed into the unknown 158 years ago to bring health care and social services to the West. The path ahead will not be easy for us either, and I fully recognize it has already been disorienting for many of our caregivers and that we have hit some big bumps along the way.

While I can’t promise that the pace of change will slow down, I can commit to keeping our Mission and values front and center and ensuring they guide every strategic decision we make.

The heritage and discernment tools that the Sisters of Providence gave us are incredible gifts that can light a clear path forward and help us understand and evaluate potential impacts to our people and communities before decisions are made.

Engaging You in the Journey

I am also committed to articulating the larger vision more regularly and concretely so everyone in the organization knows where we’re headed and can see how we each play a role in it.

My goal is engage you in our efforts and to give you a compelling reason to jump out of bed every day and bring your talents and best selves to the job. I know we still have a long way to go on the journey. But as a team, and with our Mission guiding us, anything is possible.

I know I don’t say it enough, but thank you for everything you do, especially for walking the talk and living our core values with each person you encounter. Our Mission is alive and well because of you, and I have never been more optimistic about the future.

Hear More

Healthier Communities Talk

During a recent talk with some of our leaders, I outlined our vision for the future. (Total run time 32 minutes.)



  1. It is very encourging to see how Providence is leading the transformation by bringing innovative ideas, people, and a vision which inspires all to keep challenging the status quo.

    Taking a page from President Barack Obama: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

  2. The symptom does not matter, it is merely your body’s expression of it’s inability to deal with a stressor, whether it be physical, mental, spiritual or toxic.

  3. I am seeing an increase in more Functional Medicine – Is this something Providence will also acquire more of?