Episode #157: The role of Digital Health with Dr. Eve Cunningham, Chief of Virtual Care & Digital Health for Providence


There is no question that digital health is a critical part of the future of healthcare delivery. It is what I term ‘the great enabler’.  And in this interview we have the opportunity to speak with a physician leader who is at the tip of that spear: Dr. Eve Cunningham, a physician executive in virtual care & digital health at Providence, one of the largest and most progressive healthcare systems in the country.

Dr. Cunningham currently serves as Group Vice President and Chief of Virtual Care and Digital Health for Providence Health. She joined Providence St. Joseph Health in 2017 as the Chief Medical Officer of Providence Medical Group Southwest. Eve is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and has practiced for over 12 years. She earned her medical degree at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and did her postgraduate residency training at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center. Eve also obtained a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In this interview, we’ll discover:

  1. Why Digital Health is an absolutely critical part of the current and immediate future of healthcare – a must-do can’t-fail for any healthcare system or provider organization.

  2. The three major ways that Dr. Cunningham and her teams serve within Providence Health: to promote, develop and support digital health efforts.

  3. Some of the amazing virtual services and digital products she and her team have developed and are spreading at a large scale.
  4. A few of the critical success factors Dr. Cunningham believes to be essential for the viability of any digital health division and program.

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing and speaking with a number of leaders at Providence. Each time I do, I walk away with even more respect for this organization – its mission, its forward-thinking culture, and the level of professionalism, competence and collaboration.  I also walk away with awe at the innovative and transformative services and products they are constantly incubating, scaling and commercializing. This conversation with Dr. Eve Cunningham was no different.  

I had heard Dr. Cunningham speak at a symposium a few months prior and I was impressed with her attitude and her approach. She has a unique set of skills – bringing the traditional chief medical officer acumen and experience to bear – the clinical and operational chops. But she also possesses a bold and practical irreverence for traditional approaches that are not future facing. Her ability to meld these two together is quite remarkable and striking. She has no problem in telling it straight, something I deeply admire.

In regard to telling it straight, Eve shared some very practical tips in regard to digital health initiatives; chief amongst them were three things. First – being crystal clear about the value proposition, the key performance indicators, and being to demonstrate the value proposition through these metrics.  Second – working very closely with financial colleagues to be able to demonstrate a hard return on investment.  Third – piloting programs that were not only clinically and operationally feasible as well as financially viable, but also programs that are scalable.  She talked about scale on the level of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of patients. 

In regard to some of the exciting programs and innovative products? Well, you’ll have to listen to the interview.  But, I’ll give you a sneak preview. One product we discussed at length is called MedPearl – a digitally-enabled specialty referral system/algorithm that every integrated healthcare provider system or group has been desperately seeking for decades. If you’re a healthcare leader, you will not want to miss this discussion. Another is a set of digitally-enabled surgery support tools which will radically change surgical care forever. 

I’ve understood that all healthcare is going to be digitally-enabled in the near future. But it’s leaders like Dr. Eve Cunningham and her colleagues at Providence that are making it a reality. A reality that is going to improve patient access, outcomes, experience, equity and affordability – as well as improve the effectiveness, efficiency and job doability for providers of care. There is no question in my mind that digital is the enabler for humanizing healthcare delivery for all.

I’ll leave you with a brief quote from Dr. Cunningham which really captures the essence of the imperative:

“I would say that virtual and digital is our way forward into the future, and we have to 10x it!  My goal is 10x what we’re doing in the next five years because that’s what’s going to keep us afloat as an organization.  We have to change. Traditional healthcare delivery is not sustainable in its current state…”

Until Next Time,

Zeev Neuwirth, MD