Why Healthcare Needs a Flywheel

Big tech took a week off from major healthcare acquisitions, giving us a rare chance to highlight some of the thought leadership coming out of Providence’s Digital Innovation Group.

A new blog post co-authored by Sara Vaezy and Doug Grapski – DIG THIS: Why HealthCare Needs a Flywheel – lays out how incorporating business flywheels into health system strategies can lead to lower churn, higher capacity, and a better patient experience.

Vaezy is Providence’s newly appointed CDO (she also spices things up with an awesome craft hot sauce side gig), and Grapski is the Director of Digital Strategy within the innovation group (unclear whether he likes hot sauce).

For those unfamiliar with the flywheel concept, it’s a business mechanism that pulls consumers to a platform and drives continued use, thereby adding stability and increasing momentum much like a mechanical flywheel. Notable examples include Amazon’s Prime membership and Starbucks’ loyalty program.

Despite their success in other industries, flywheels are seldomly implemented in healthcare, and most patients rarely interact with their providers outside of moments of individual need.

  • Vaezy and Grapski emphasize that a portfolio of modalities (3rd party apps, care navigation, personalized experiences) is needed to create flywheels that are effective at providing proactive healthcare experiences.
  • By integrating these tools in a single platform, health systems can begin eliminating the gap between “sick care” and “healthy care” – especially important for those in value-based arrangements.

Providence’s flywheel revolves around leveraging various data sources to deeply understand its patients as consumers with identities outside of their clinical data, allowing it to create highly personalized engagement programs.

  • This 360-degree view of its consumers lets Providence operate more like a D2C startup than a giant health system, with strong direct relationships that draw people to its services and keep it top of mind between visits.
  • Only once this flywheel is in place would the authors suggest augmenting it with non-traditional offerings such as a durable medical equipment business or concierge-level care.

The Takeaway

The consumerization of healthcare is one of the biggest trends in digital health, and it makes sense that forward-looking health systems will be borrowing plenty of plays from the consumer-tech playbook. Flywheels are the foundation of some of the most successful consumer businesses, and Providence’s digital health leaders make a strong case that it’s time for healthcare to start putting them to use.

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-- The Digital Health Wire team