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Providence deploys technology, analytics in response to the coronavirus pandemic

Case Study | Coronavirus

Providence deploys technology, analytics in response to the coronavirus pandemic

  • Providence,  the largest healthcare provider in Washington state, has brought technology to bear on its fight against COVID-19.
  • Chatbot technology allows patients to self-triage from home.
  • Data analytics can help health systems understand upcoming demand from COVID-19 patients.

Technology tools not available to hospitals in previous infectious-disease outbreaks should be used in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Providence, a 51-hospital system that serves seven states.

Providence, the largest healthcare provider in Washington state, has been at the forefront of the  COVID-19 crisis since it emerged in the U.S. in late January. As of March 27, the state had 3,208 patients diagnosed with the disease, 151 of whom had died.

Providence is adapting technology solutions to help administrators and clinicians meet the challenges associated with COVID-19, Compton-Phillips said during a HIMSS webinar on March 12. Among her tips from the front lines:

Use a chatbot for patient triage

Recognizing that their primary care clinics did not have capacity for an onslaught of patients seeking to be tested for the novel coronavirus, Providence created a chatbot to give patients a better option.

“People can go online and work through the questions — are you a ‘worried well’ who just wants to learn the symptoms, or do you actually have a cough, a fever and shortness of breath? Through the chatbot, you can triage yourself to find the care that you need,” Compton-Phillips said.

As part of the chatbot interaction, patients experiencing symptoms can click to request a telehealth virtual visit with a nurse practitioner or to speak with a nurse.

Providence implemented the chatbot March 9 “and had 5,000 people go through the tool on Day One,” Compton-Phillips said. “It’s only increased since then.”

Synthesize data for virtual grand rounds

Because the coronavirus is new, clinicians must learn about its effects and how to treat them as quickly as possible. Providence is using “virtual grand rounds” — gathering clinicians online — for rapid learning based on data aggregated throughout the organization.

Seeing the trajectory of symptoms over time, for example, helps clinicians know what to expect for their COVID-19 patients.

“This allows us all to learn very quickly about what the disease looks like and what the care should be,” Compton-Phillips said.

Help isolated patients be less isolated

Patients admitted to a Providence hospital with a COVID-19 diagnosis are not allowed to have visitors. But they can see their loved ones via two-way video.

“That kind of social isolation is yet another contributor to delirium, especially for our older patients, and all the bad things that are associated with that,” Compton-Phillips said. “We’ve started deploying our iPads to help people keep their connections with family members, which helps them stay sane while they are undergoing acute therapy.”

Use data analytics to predict demand

Ari Robicsek, MD, chief medical analytics officer for Providence, trained to be an infectious disease specialist, so when COVID-19 appeared in Washington state, he recognized the opportunity to harness data to help prepare for an influx of patients. His team quickly built the Coronavirus Epidemic Registry and Emergency Data (CoVERED) platform to synthesize practical information about COVID-19 patients throughout the Providence system.

The searchable database lets users understand the current COVID-19 caseload, current and anticipated resource use, and anticipated admissions and discharges in the next 24 hours.

“This lets us stay a step ahead,” Compton-Phillips said. “We need to know where we need to deploy our PPE [personal protective equipment] and where we need to put ventilators ahead of needing them so that we can be ready.”

Read more about how Providence has responded to COVID-19, including development of a communications strategy.

About the Author

Lola Butcher

is an HFMA contributing writer (


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