On the Mend: Providence SW Chief Executive Darin Goss on Navigating a Pandemic and the Future of Health Care

by Heidi Smith • Photos by Tracy Jameson

Since moving from Southern California to Olympia to take on his new role as Chief Executive of Providence Southwest Service Area, Darin Goss has met with multiple leaders from the business and health care communities. He collaborates with some of them so often that it was a shock to realize that, after nearly one year, he has yet to meet many of them in person. “I have great relationships with them,” he explains. “It’s strange to think that we’ve never met other than online.”

Goss started on August 3, 2020, and he has been adapting to both his new home and the unprecedented challenges posed to the healthcare industry by COVID-19. Fortunately, Providence had strong plans in place to address the pandemic by the time he arrived. “My priority was understanding those plans and getting up to speed on what had already been done,” he says. The next step was tapping into existing expertise available through the network’s 51 hospitals and applying that knowledge locally within Thurston and Lewis counties. 

Before joining the Southwest service area, Goss served as COO of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank California after more than a decade at the Mayo Clinic. During his time at Providence in Southern California, he focused on streamlining operations, enhancing quality and led a $78M Emergency Room expansion currently under construction. When the opportunity arrived to venture up north, he felt the move to Washington made sense for him both professionally and personally.

“It was an easy decision,” he explains. “Providence is the market leader in health care for our community and has a wide array of resources. They’re a national player among top hospitals. I knew I could come here and build on their success while navigating the future of health care and dramatic changes in how we deliver care.” 

Two of his current initiatives involve behavioral health and the use of technology. Providence recently was approved for a new behavioral health hospital that will address patient needs that go beyond the scope of traditional practice. Behavioral health encompasses the connection between the health and wellbeing of body and mind, and how factors like eating and drinking habits, exercise and addictive behavior patterns affect physical health. The new hospital will bring 85 additional behavioral health beds to our community and treat everyone from Pediatrics to Geriatrics. Providence is collaborating with UHS/Fairfax Behavioral Health to offer services to patients through Olympia Behavioral Health Hospital in Lacey.

“One of the main priorities is how to create spaces that are convenient,” says Goss. “Our Emergency Room is not always the best site of care for treating Behavior Health patients. Working with those patients requires a different level of expertise and we knew we couldn’t do it alone. It was important for us to partner with someone who does this well. UHS/Fairfax is that partner.” 

On the technology front, Goss is inspired by fundamental shifts in how medical care is delivered, particularly for non-emergency medical conditions. One outcome of the pandemic has been a sustained increase in telehealth appointments. “Not everyone needs to be sitting in front of a provider,” he maintains. “We have other avenues available to offer immediate care or urgent care. I hope s to continue to embed those options for people who want to use them. We want to continue to serve our patients in a space that is most convenient for them.” 

Looking ahead, he foresees more changes coming and the need to ensure that providers and staff are prepared for them. The service area will also continue to grow, Goss notes, and so will the need to care for underinsured or uninsured patients. “How do we continue to care for these growing patient populations?” he asks. “How is health care going to continue to change post-pandemic? What role is technology going to play in how we deliver care? Those are the questions that excite me. Providence has the resources to lead that charge.”

No matter how advanced technology becomes, people will always remain at the heart of the organization. Goss points out that in Thurston and Lewis counties alone, more than 5,000+ staff members are either on the front lines or helping those on the front lines take care of patients, many patients who are vulnerable or low-income. “I want to make sure that I’m doing the right things to allow our caregivers to give their best every day,” he says. “They’ve navigated a pandemic and they continue to care for other people. That inspires me.” 

In the meantime, he and his wife are enjoying the Pacific Northwest. “We absolutely love it,” says Goss. “I grew up in Phoenix and spent time in L.A. where it never rains. We’re loving the trees, the water and the people. It’s a large community, but it feels small. You can get to know a lot of business and community leaders on a personal level. It is easy to call Washington home.”

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