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'Think Like Tech Execs': What a Former Amazon Exec Can Teach Healthcare

By Philip Betbeze  
   December 14, 2017

After starting his career in healthcare "eons" ago, Aaron Martin found himself leading Amazon self-publishing and print on-demand businesses. But he felt like healthcare needed him.

Aaron Martin was a high-level executive at Amazon, who led two startups Amazon had acquired: a self-publishing and print on-demand division.

When a headhunter came calling, Martin wasn't looking to move. But as he heard about a new chief digital/innovation officer position at Providence St. Joseph Health, he was willing to listen. Since joining the health system in early 2014, his responsibilities have grown substantially.

In addition to articulating and executing digital strategy at the 53-hospital health system—which may soon merge with Ascension—Martin is also the managing general partner of Providence Ventures, Providence's $150 million venture fund that focuses on early-stage healthcare technology and medical device investments.

Martin shares his thoughts about how and why he returned to healthcare, and what he sees as Providence's chief mission: fostering a digital connection with patients.

The following transcript has been lightly edited.

HealthLeaders Media: Your career has come full circle, from healthcare to healthcare with lots in between. How did that happen?

Martin: I was in healthcare eons ago. My career started off in manufacturing, then I moved to home health healthcare management in a startup that went public back in the 90s. I went to business school [Wharton] to study healthcare and did consulting with McKinsey. Then I founded a company that developed banking and financial services software and manufacturing software.

Providence called me through a recruiter I knew and I met two leaders, including my boss, [President of Operations] Mike Butler, and they just blew my hair back. These guys think like tech execs in a healthcare perspective. They understand healthcare needs change and if they don't disrupt their own business, someone else will.

HLM: Your primary job is to foster innovation. What does that entail?

Martin: I spend a lot of time thinking about the areas where we're going to work with our business partners. We call these 'journeys,' and each of them takes 5–7 years to complete.

As one example, nonprofits are in the business of subsidizing their mission through commercial insurance, so one journey is how we grow our commercial share. Most commercial customers, who tend to be middle or upper income, are exceptionally online.

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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