Providence St. Joseph Health Buys into EHR Innovation

Providence St. Joseph Health - bluetree logo Innovation isn’t always about building a new product. Huge opportunities exist in making a good product better or optimizing its capabilities and performance and helping others in the field do the same. As part of its transformation, the Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health system is building a rapidly growing business out of the latter by being a service organization to peers and helping them harness and improve the capabilities of their electronic health records platforms.

The health system’s latest move: buying Epic’s Bluetree consulting firm. The deal further advances Providence St. Joseph Health’s strategy to diversify revenue streams to support patient care across its 51-hospital system and beyond. The health system, which deploys Epic’s EHR platform across its hospitals, will operate Bluetree as an independent for-profit subsidiary.

The purchase brings Providence St. Joseph Health added scale in the EHR consulting field following its 2013 purchase of Meditech’s Engage consulting firm. The two deals are major building blocks in the health system’s transformation to becoming a services provider in addition to a care provider. These deals will also help the system achieve its goal of earning $1 billion from nonclinical revenue sources by 2023 as it drives to provide more affordable care. The combined subsidiaries of Bluetree, Epic Community Connect (which allows other hospitals to use Providence St. Joseph Health’s version of Epic) and Engage could be a $400 million organization, Modern Healthcare reports.

Rod Hochman, M.D., Providence St. Joseph Health’s president and CEO, says the Bluetree acquisition will further enable the system to provide services ranging from EHR installations to upgrading and optimizing existing systems for hospitals, health systems and physician groups.

“These latter functions are critical in maximizing the value of EHRs to hospitals, ambulatory facilities and medical groups,” Hochman says. “We are able to perform these services at an effective price for the customer and utilize our expertise from our own experience. … Optimization of the EHR will be critical to all of our success in the future.”

Earlier this year, the system established Ayin Health Solutions — a care management services company — to help other provider organizations, health plans and other risk-bearing entities and acquired Lumedic, a revenue cycle-management company based on block chain technology to help streamline data sharing and improve claims processing.

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