Providence Health eXpress Is Actually Really Cool

I want to be clear: This is not a sponsored post. I was wrong, and I’m writing to correct it. You know nobody would ever pay me to write this blog anyway.

You may recall the minor shit fit I had over some interactions with Providence Health & Services week before last.

I admit, I actually feel bad about how bitchy I was. I’m used to shit-fitting over much larger fish like American Express and McDonald’s. I knew about Providence because I was born in a Providence hospital (shout out to Little Company of Mary in Torrance, CA), and assumed that any hospital that would birth yours truly would surely belong to a massive operation.

On the one hand, this is the case. Providence operates more than 62 healthcare facilities across Alaska, Washington, Montana, Oregon and California as well as a science magnet high school in Burbank, CA, and several senior living facilities in the Pacific Northwest.

On the other hand, they are much more a mission-based non-profit than a capital H Healthcare provider. They were founded in 1859 by Catholic nuns, the Sisters of Providence with one mission: Helping the Poor and Vulnerable, and their objective remains unchanged after all these years.

I’m so used to any organization bigger than 20 people (and most of the ones smaller than that) paying lip service to their mission statements that it literally never occurred to me that a company on social media would have a philanthropic intent.

All to her credit and none to mine, Providence Communications Director Mary Renouf-Hanson decided to be the bigger bro and reached out to make this clarification, among others.

I had assumed the product they were promoting, Health eXpress, was only for people with Providence healthcare. Not even close. It’s actually for everybody. Even, or maybe especially the uninsured.

In our phone conversation, Mary explained that “Health eXpress is a digital opportunity for us to provide healthcare to anybody and everybody in a way that people want it.”

Any person in Washington or Oregon can get seen by a doctor from the comfort of their own home for $39 via the website or the app, which is available for Apple or Android devices. They do take insurance, but for many of us, $39 is actually cheaper than our co-pay would be anyway. And, if the Health eXpress doctor can’t help you, they refund your $39.

As of this writing, service is only available Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. The goal is to have 24/7 service across the entire Providence network, but the program, which is relatively new and unique, is being road tested in the tech-savvy NorthWest.

“A lot of people don’t have time to visit their primary care doctor, even when they’re healthy” Mary said. “We’re going after tech guys who live at their desks, moms for whom it can be difficult to get out of the house, and people who avoid urgent care.”

About the strategy of tweeting at sick people she said “We wanted to get people the moment they needed us, and it did work sometimes. We had a mom who’s baby was sick, but she was alone and didn’t want to take her toddler with them to the urgent care. She was glad we reached out to her.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t a winning plan. “When you’re sick is when you’re most vulnerable. Sick people don’t want to register for a site and download an app. Now we’re working on getting healthy people to sign up before they need it.”

Providence is still working out the best social media strategy for them, and they are relatively new to the game. When Mary joined the team in 2014, after being the Director of Social Marketing at T-Mobile, and XBOX before that, the healthcare provider was not interactive online. She joined Providence because of the mission, and because she saw an opportunity to build something new. “I looked around, and I could have gone to Starbucks, but Starbucks already does social well” she said.

Considering the recent clashes between service providers, vulnerable communities, and religion, of course I had to ask her if the explicitly Catholic healthcare company would be turning away certain groups, or refusing to treat specific conditions. “We do not turn people away.” she said “We absolutely provide birth control and family planning services without judgement to anyone who needs them. We also provide end of life care. We believe in dying well. People are surprised when I say we’re Catholic and progressive, but there are very few things this organization is not behind.”

So let’s see…

Caring for the poor? Check.
Does not discriminate? Check.
Got unfairly bitched out on social media by this humble blogger? Check and Check.

Go sign up for Health eXpress. Next time you have a UTI pay $40 bucks so you don’t have to drive across town and sit in a waiting room for hours. Your UT will thank you.