Using New Technology and Innovation to Improve Care

robotRoving about the hospital on wheels, the InTouch Health® RP-VITA® robot lets doctors see and talk with patients, families, and staff in the intensive care unit in the middle of the night. From their home computers, doctors guide the robot, connect via secure video, and virtually respond to urgent needs in a matter of minutes.

The Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy’s latest Policy Story shows how a three-month pilot of InTouch® helped physicians improve communications and respond to after-hours emergencies at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Fremont, CA. Champions of this new technology are attempting to spread its use across the organization.

This exciting development is just one innovation being tested at Kaiser Permanente, where an extensive support system enables physicians and front-line staff to bring new ideas to life.

The Story also suggests ways to overcome innovation road blocks in health care when trying to get ideas moving. Here’s one of the tips:  Share best practices to generate enthusiasm through blogging, email updates, and demonstrations.

We’re following our own advice with this blog thanks to the Center for Total Health. Please pass it on.

Because a little mint makes everything better.

imageAn all-too-common summertime dilemma:  We have so much beautiful fresh fruit on hand, we don’t know what to do with it all.  Fear not.  Our good friends at the Food for Health blog have shared the recipe for a refreshing Mojito Fruit Salad. A perfect recipe to try out this weekend. Find it here!

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Helping patients ‘Find Their Thing’ is key to Exercise as a Vital Sign

Latifat T. Apatira, MD, MPH, fourth-year internal medicine and preventive medicine resident, believes that in order for Exercise as a Vital Sign (EVS) to succeed, health care providers need to help connect patients with resources in the communities where they live – outside of the exam room.

Part four of her seven-part blog highlights the community-clinic component of EVS, in which health care providers point their patients to a wealth of diverse programs and initiatives for fitness – what Dr. Apatira calls “finding their thing.”

The blog features several examples of community-clinic integration that Kaiser Permanente is exploring, as well as Dr. Apatira’s ideas of how to link patients to community resources.

Resources include:

  • City/Community Listings – Most official city websites have listings for activities that support physical activity.
  •  Parks Prescription – A movement to strengthen connections between the health care system and United States public lands, Park Prescription works with providers to encourage patients to get physically active at their local public parks.

Read the full blog to see more of Dr. Apatira’s health and fitness tips, including apps that track exercise levels.

running

Don’t Let the Heat Keep You on the Couch

For those of us who live in the swamp also known as Washington, DC, hot and humid summer days are nothing out of the ordinary (it’s a special thing when “feels like 90″ is a relief after days of “feels like 105!”). Even for veterans of the heat, it can be a convenient excuse to take a day — or two, or three — away from activity.

With seemingly unusual weather patterns hitting the United States this summer, it seems like a good time to share some hot weather exercise tips:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Not just before you exercise, but during and after, and just in general. Water is  your friend.
  • Exercise early in the morning, or later in the evening (personally, I think the morning is WAY more comfortable and has the benefit of fewer people and cars out).
  • Hit the gym and work out inside, in the glory of air conditioning.
  • Cut back a little (run a shorter route, or bike slower, or take more breaks).
  • Dress for the temperature in wicking materials (with built-in SPF, if you have them) and light colors.
  • Think about location, and opt for a walk, run, or bike on a route with more trees and less sun. Save your track workout for a cooler day (or before sun-up, if it’s a safe area).
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen (this won’t keep you cool, of course, but you should still do it!).
  • Consider hitting the local pool for some laps. Built-in heat relief!
  • Love the sweat. Embrace it as a sign of your hard work, rather than dreading it. Believe it or not, this helps. A lot.

If the heat wave is short, maybe you can take a day or two off, but don’t let the heat keep you on the couch for too long!

Check out these specific tips for runners and bikers, and learn more about heat-related illnesses to keep yourself safe here.

 

 

In search of healthy recipes? Look no further than the Food for Health blog.

Has this ever happened to you?  You visit your local Farmers Market, feel overjoyed by all of the amazing produce, come home with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables — and then feel stumped about what exactly to do with your bounty.cherry-tomatoes-593x395

We’ve all been there.  Luckily, a new blog recently launched dedicated entirely to sharing recipes for healthy dishes.  Food for Health is published by Kaiser Permanente and features favorite foods of doctors, nurses and other organization leaders.  Check out this colorful recipe for roasted cherry tomatoes.

You can find many more recipes at the blog — like Mojito Fruit Salad, Mango Guacamole, and Saffron Yellow Pepper Soup, to name a few — so stop by and find a fresh new dish to try.

What is a ‘wired’ hospital — and what does it mean for patients?

Today’s post is authored by guest blogger Samantha DuPont, with the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy.

For the second year in a row, Kaiser Permanente’s California hospitals have been named “Health Care’s Most Wired” by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. The honor recognizes our excellence in technology integration across the health care spectrum — infrastructure, procurement, human resources, security, clinical quality and safety, patient access, care continuum and health information exchange.

Kaiser Permanente has long been recognized as a leader in using technology to deliver high quality care. By 1970, we had implemented an electronic health record (EHR) for over 1 million patients. Today, our EHR, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, connects 9.3 million members to their providers, and is one of the most advanced in the nation. By integrating comprehensive patient data, best practice research, treatment recommendations and other provider tools in one record, KP HealthConnect® ensures that patients receive the best care at every encounter.

We were also an early adopter of online health services for patients, as chronicled in an informative Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Story. In 1996 we began offering online prescription refills and appointment scheduling. Since then, our patient portal, My Health Manager, has grown a bevy of features, allowing patients to:

• view personal health information, including lab results, immunizations, past office visits,
• prescriptions, allergies, and health conditions;
• view, schedule, or cancel appointments;
• refill prescriptions;
• securely email doctors, pharmacists, and member services staff;
• take health assessments and programs that support healthy lifestyle changes and find information about health topics; and,
• manage health benefits, including viewing drug formularies and estimating the cost of treatments.

As of 2014, more than 4.4 million members are registered for My Health Manager on kp.org, nearly double the number in 2008. To learn more about how we’ve achieved success in getting patients online – and how that has improved health outcomes – read, “Engaging Patients Online with My Health Manager.”

salad bar

Healthy Picks for Happy Meetings

We’ve all been to meetings with food that runs counter to our best efforts. You know the drill – you wake up, maybe go for a run or hit the gym, eat a healthy breakfast and get ready for your day. You head to a great meeting, full of interesting conversation and great colleagues, only to sit down and be immediately faced with the sugared-up carb du jour and not a lean protein in site. Follow this up a few hours later with heavy lunch, and you’re ready for a nap by 2 p.m.

All smiles at the DIY Salad Bar

All smiles at the DIY Salad Bar

Kaiser Permanante has long offered guidance to employees with our “Healthy Picks” Guidelines – nutrition information and guidance to help employees select healthy meals for meetings and events. On May 1, 2014, the guidance became a policy, meaning that it’s the law of the land. Led by several executives, including Kathy Gerwig, vice president of employee safety, health, & wellness, Kaiser Permanente has made it company policy to have healthy meals provided at company events. The transition is not always easy, but it is catching on as people see that healthy food doesn’t have to be boring.

The Center for Total Health committed to these guidelines more than a year ago. Working with an exclusive caterer, we have succeeded in removing sugary beverages and most desserts from the Center, while bringing in more lean protein and tasty fruits and veggies. One of the most popular innovations we’ve seen is our DIY salad bar, which lets guests build their own salad. It gets rave reviews every time.

If you’re interested in bringing healthier food to your meetings and events, please check out our guidelines. For more healthy meeting suggestions, check out the full guide from our HealthWorks team.

 

Workplace Wellness

At Kaiser Permanante, we understand well that health outcomes are impacted significantly by our environments, so we work with employers, communities, and schools to provide tools and education about wellness and healthy living.

On June 20, Kaiser Permanante invited some of our largest customer groups to spend the morning discussing workforce wellness and healthy environments. The meeting offered expert advice from wellness leaders and experts, including Kaiser Permanante’s own Tom Carter.

You can see video of the dance break in this article from the Washington Business Journal.

Looking for ideas to make your workplace and meetings healthier? Look here.

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Photo of the Day: Human Resources in Action

The Center for Total Health team was excited to host our colleagues from the area Human Resources Department for their quarterly meeting yesterday. They were truly models of health, with a meeting that included skits, walking breaks, and healthy meals. We asked them all to strike a favorite pose or stretch, and here’s what we got.

Action!

When asked what their passion in health is, we heard great responses ranging from service to innovation to happiness. Here’s to this great group for working hard to keep the Kaiser Permanante team healthy and happy!

Informing the Next Generation of Accountable Care Organizations

Some of the biggest buzz in health reform lies in the potential that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have to help to reduce costs, improve care, and move away from fee-for-service to population-based payment.   But questions remain as to whether or not they will result in comprehensive delivery system and payment reform that is sustainable.

Joy Lewis, MSW, MPH, of the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy, attended a July 13th convening in Washington D.C., hosted by the National Health Policy Forum, that highlighted some of the successes and challenges of early ACOs.

Kaiser Permanente has been supportive of this movement since the concept was first introduced in 2009.  While not technically an ACO, many elements of our care system – such as use of electronic health records, team-based care, and population management tools – ideally will be a part of ACOs.

Read the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy Observation describing Lewis’ highlights of the meeting, which include tactics for improving quality, increasing savings and overcoming the fee-for-service chassis.

Explore the Center for Total Health Take Video Tour