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How Providence Innovates for Patients With Auth0

Pioneering identity solutions to fix a fragmented healthcare system


Secure access for everyone. But not just anyone.

About Providence

Providence is a national, not-for-profit Catholic health system comprising a diverse family of organizations and driven by a belief that health is a human right. With 51 hospitals, 829 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing and many other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ more than 119,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states.

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Medical technology has made remarkable advances in recent years, yet the patient experience has remained stubbornly resistant to change. Providence aims to change that by building technology that connects patients and healthcare providers through data sharing, scheduling, and even remote care. And with the Coronavirus highlighting the urgent need for telemedicine, the work they’re doing couldn’t be more vital.

Providence has been innovating since its inception in 1859, and today, it’s a $24 billion health system with approximately 119,000 employees serving more than five million patients. Not content to rest on its laurels, the company actively seeks out technological solutions to advance its patient-first mission. In that spirit, it empowered its Digital Innovation Group (DIG) to build software to support patients and clinicians, both within Providence and for the industry at large.

“We’re a patient-first organization,” says Chris Carruthers, DIG’s principal technical program manager. “To stay true to our promise (know me, care for me, ease my way), we need an effective consumer-facing digital strategy that creates a seamless patient experience.” DIG prides itself on its startup mentality, but its ambitions were soon met with a problem: bringing a health industry riddled with regulations and legacy software into the modern age.

“We’re a patient-first organization. To stay true to our promise (know me, care for me, ease my way), we need an effective consumer-facing digital strategy that creates a seamless patient experience.”
Chris Carruthers
Principal Technical Program Manager

A Tangle of Systems Needed a Unified Identity Solution

As Carruthers explains, “The healthcare industry is a complex landscape. Many customers have legacy applications and require highly secure vendor systems that meet patient data privacy requirements. Auth0’s adherence to top compliance frameworks makes them a valuable identity partner for us.” Any healthcare IT solution has to navigate HIPAA compliance, a myriad of federal & state laws governing patient data, and EMR systems that must comply with the newly passed ONC’s 21st Century Cures Act on interoperability and information blocking.

One of DIG’s biggest projects to date is its DexCare platform, which helps drive new digital demand into the health system and intelligently navigate patients to the right type of care. It handles patients with medical issues that can be addressed through retail clinics, telehealth services, in-home clinician visits, online registration, check-in, payment, and other services. DIG’s team chose to build much of the platform’s capabilities — such as its video chat tool — in-house but ran into a sticking point when it came to coding for identity.

In today’s healthcare industry, patients have their records siloed across different, frequently antiquated electronic medical record (EMR) systems, sometimes even within the same health network. The result is fragmented care, wasted time, and frustration for patients who don’t understand why receiving healthcare is less user-friendly than ordering takeout. To create a holistic, frictionless experience, DIG needed a federated, multi-tenant identity solution that could serve as a single source of truth across these disparate systems.

“The healthcare industry is a complex landscape. Many customers have legacy applications and require highly secure vendor systems that meet patient data privacy requirements. Auth0’s adherence to top compliance frameworks makes them a valuable identity partner for us.”
Chris Carruthers
Principal Technical Program Manager

Turning to Auth0 to Speed Up Innovation

DIG isn’t afraid to build applications, so it originally experimented with WSO2 before concluding that building identity was a misuse of valuable developer time. Ultimately, it decided to partner with Auth0. “It was so easy for us to make that decision,” Carruthers recalls, “because of the rich Auth0 feature-set we don’t need to build and maintain ourselves: multi-tenant administration, social federation capabilities, passwordless connections, all the enterprise solutions that we can offer out-of-the-gate like SAML, Open ID Connect, ADFS, Active Directory/LDAP, G-Suite, etc. Our value is innovation outside of the problems Auth0 has already solved.”

The team found Auth0’s platform to be refreshingly “developer-centric” in combining ease of use with customizability, so it didn’t feel like they were compromising on innovation, just embracing it. “We didn’t need to innovate on identity. It was already done.” And outsourcing that functionality allows DIG to focus on its core priorities. “We’re years ahead of where we would be if we were to build identity ourselves.”

According to Carruthers, Auth0’s extensibility has become a major selling point for customers who are wary of technological “solutions” that only complicate their lives further. “Most organizations want to eliminate multiple accounts and provide an SSO experience to their users. Our health system customers need the same for their patients, staff, and providers alike. So we say, ‘Okay, you can federate with us through Auth0. Or you can use our Auth0 based identity store if needed and use that as an IDP for other digital assets.’”

He goes on, “Each customer has a different story. They're going to have a different architecture, different technologies, and by using Auth0 we are extremely flexible in providing customers a product that works with any identity strategy.”

“Each customer has a different story. They're going to have a different architecture, different technologies, and by using Auth0 we are extremely flexible in providing customers a product that works with any identity strategy.”
Chris Carruthers
Principal Technical Program Manager

Using Identity to Build a Patient-First Future

Ultimately, DIG partnered with Auth0 for the same reason it does everything: to benefit the patient. “If we’re putting patients first, it means lowering the friction to get care,” explains Carruthers. “Auth0 is a no-brainer. It provides modern self-service password reset options and the ability to federate applications across the entire health system. Users expect this digital experience today and deserve it as a patient.”

Going forward, Providence is expanding its partnership with Auth0 to more departments, and the future looks bright for DIG’s innovative approach to care. That’s great news for millions of patients, who can look forward to medical experiences in which technology is an ally.

“Auth0 is a no-brainer. It provides modern self-service password reset options and the ability to federate applications across the entire health system.”
Chris Carruthers
Principal Technical Program Manager

About Auth0

The Auth0 Identity Platform, a product unit within Okta, takes a modern approach to identity and enables organizations to provide secure access to any application, for any user. Auth0 is a highly customizable platform that is as simple as development teams want, and as flexible as they need. Safeguarding billions of login transactions each month, Auth0 delivers convenience, privacy, and security so customers can focus on innovation. For more information, visit https://auth0.com.

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Secure access for everyone. But not just anyone.