Is Health IT Really Worth It? News from HIMSS 2014.

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imageOne of the big topics of conversation this year at the Kaiser Permanente booth is this: Is health information technology really worth it?

A valid question. And Kaiser Permanente has data that answers that question with yes.

Beyond the way health IT supports coordinated care and offers ease and convenience to consumers, Kaiser Permanente has also linked it to improved health outcomes. Diabetes patients saw fewer emergency room visits after the implementation of KP HealthConnect (the organization’s electronic health record system). And secure email between patients and their doctors is associated with improvements in glycemic, cholesterol, and blood pressure screening and control.

For an illustration of these data points as well as other ways Kaiser Permanente is measuring the value of health IT, click on the image above.

It’s late February, so we must be at HIMSS!

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imageThis week is the annual meeting of the Health Information Management Systems Society, and I’ll be covering it on behalf of the Center for Total Health blog. If you are in the neighborhood, drop by Kaiser Permanente at the Orange County Convention Center in Hall B, booth #3011. We are sharing mobile health innovations and apps, and we’re talking about the consumer side of health IT. We’re also once again having our Every Body Walk! walking drawing, so be sure to pick up your pedometer and begin counting the thousands of steps you’ll be making anyway. Hit 30,000 by Wednesday at 3 p.m., and they could be your ticket to an iPad Air or an iPad Mini.

Stay tuned for more dispatches — or follow everything happening in Orlando via Twitter hash tag #HIMSS14.

Photo of the Week: German IT Delegation

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Today at the Center for Total Health, Kaiser Permanente International hosted a group of German Health IT delegates for an informational session. Joy Lewis, MPH provided an overview of Kaiser Permanente to set the context for the dialogue that followed. The group saw a KP HealthConnect demonstration and heard about being a physician Tom Tesoriero, MD, from the Mid-Atlantic Permanante Medical Group, followed by a discussion with Sandra Stuart, Executive Director of Health IT Standards. Sandra talked with the group about the future of HIT and shared some examples of how Kaiser Permanente is forward-thinking about the use of technology at four different care sites (hospital, clinic, home and virtual).

Dr. Tesoriero

Dr. Tesoriero



Group Discussion


Sandra Stuart speaks to the group about Kaiser Permanente's approach to Health IT

Sandra Stuart speaks to the group about Kaiser Permanente’s approach to Health IT


Connected Care is Better Care

By | Care Delivery, Experts, Health IT, Healthy Living, Mobility / Mobile Health, News | One Comment
Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group (Photo courtesy Health Affairs)

Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, speaks at Health Affairs briefing on Feb. 4. (Photo courtesy Health Affairs)

“Connected care” is gaining more momentum in the health care industry.  Health care providers are adopting electronic health records with federal support and standard setting. Consumer electronics makers and applications developers are offering more tools and devices for consumers to track and manage their health.  Patients have more options for accessing care and information, and communicating with care teams.

On February 4 in Washington, DC, Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, shared Kaiser Permanente’s experience as a leader bringing electronic tools to its 3.4 million Northern California members in a discussion sponsored by the journal Health Affairs.   Here is Dr. Pearl’s article in the recent issue and a video recording of the event and slides.

Dr. Pearl shared his optimism that health care is poised to be transformed by electronic technology in ways similar to the retail, travel, and finance sectors. He also noted some barriers in the way, including a predominantly “fee-for-service” payment model that fails to incentivize non face-to-face care or investments in information systems geared to prevention and care coordination. “We can’t just lay technology on the current system,” Dr. Pearl noted. He cited new payment models such as ACOs, the growing popularity of Medicare Advantage and its “5 Stars” quality incentives, and hospital readmission penalties as all providing momentum for changing behavior of physicians and other parts of the health care system. Read More

The Buzz at Davos: A Digital Health Revolution

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Today, the World Economic Forum blog published a post by Jamie Ferguson, vice president of health IT for Kaiser Permanente:  A Digital Health Revolution in the Making.

“Mobile apps and wearable devices empower individuals to manage their health and wellness,” Ferguson says in his blog post.  “Big data analytics harness individual information for public health, safety and research, while remote monitoring devices, telemedicine, electronic health records and interoperability enable the right care, anywhere. All of this technology and data ultimately result in low-cost wellness and high-value healthcare.”

These things can all have great impact, but Ferguson points out that we can and should do more to really leverage the digital health revolution currently underway.  To that end, the WEF will be tapping the expertise of more than 1,000 health care decision makers and policy leaders to create a Digital Health Knowledge Exchange toolkit – a knowledge commons to share best practices.

The WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Digital Health is calling for much more – all of it focused on taking full advantage of all of the developments in digital health and its impact on world societies and economies as well as the health and wellness of individuals.

Read all of Ferguson’s blog post here.

This Year at the World Economic Forum: Hyperconnectivity and Personal Data

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At a time when the news is saturated by coverage of the challenges related to data privacy and security, world leaders will be exploring the topic of hyperconnectivity during the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 22 – 25.

In the following video promoting the WEF, Raymond J. Baxter, senior vice president for Kaiser Permanente, joins other business leaders to talk about worldwide hyperconnectivity of information and personal data.

While there is a heightened debate around privacy and the use of personal data, Baxter points out the reality of our current situation.

“We can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” says Baxter in the video. “Our information is out there. What we’ve got to learn are what are the social conventions and legal conventions that we are all going to have to adopt in order to retain our dignity and our privacy and our autonomy. And that’s what the World Economic Forum is good at is providing a platform to bring all of those different actors together to try to reach some solutions to some very important problems.”

In a WEF blog post he authored in January 2013, Baxter discussed the benefits that can result when personal data goes beyond what it was originally intended for and is used for broad social purposes.

“For example, medical researchers at Kaiser Permanente using a robust database taken from the personal medical records of related family members, from 1995 through 2002, demonstrated that children who were prenatally exposed to mothers who used antidepressants had more than twice the risk of developing autism spectrum disorders. By discovering this correlation and leveraging data in new ways, lives are improved.”

In the same blog post, Baxter makes the point that it is how the personal data is used, and how the individual is informed, that will make the critical difference moving forward.

“New approaches are needed that help individuals to understand how and when data is being collected, how the data is being used and the implications of those actions. Simplicity, efficacy and usability should lie at the heart of the relationship between individuals and the data generated by and about them. Organizations of all types need to engage and empower individuals more effectively so that better choice and control can be delivered. Trust needs to be earned.”

Baxter will once again be posting to the WEF blog this year. We will post and link to it when it is published. More coverage on Davos in the coming week. Stay tuned!

Imagination and Innovation: A Q&A with Kaiser Permanente’s Philip Fasano

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Kaiser Permanente's Philip Fasano speaks at the 2013 Accelerating Innovation event hosted by NASA.

Kaiser Permanente’s Philip Fasano at the Accelerating Innovation event hosted by NASA.

During yesterday’s event with NASA at the Center for Total Health, Kaiser Permanente Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Philip Fasano was part of a panel discussing the acceleration of innovation across organizational business models.  Afterward, we were able to sit down and chat briefly about how Kaiser Permanente is leveraging innovation and imagination to help transform health care – for providers as well as consumers and patients.

The NASA event began with the latest of several videos Kaiser Permanente has produced about imagining the future of care in the United States – really inspiring videos, I might add.  This most recent video is called, “Imagining Care Anywhere.” Why is that concept something you (and Kaiser Permanente) are so passionate about?

To answer that question, you don’t have to look much further than the smart phone in your pocket, your increasingly frequent online shopping experiences, social media, and the emerging technologies that afford all of us convenience and access to information in our daily lives. But for Kaiser Permanente, the concept of “anywhere” carries higher stakes. If we can enable care anywhere, we can improve care, help people stay healthier, and save costs in the health care system as a result. Kaiser Permanente is an integrated care system, not a fee-for-service system. This means that our doctors are not paid to do more tests, prescribe more treatments, or bring you into the office for a visit, unless your care requires it.

Being able to engage in these conversations to imagine together the possibilities in health care and how to progress population health is good for us, for NASA, and for earth-bound patients.

Everyone benefits when people are healthy, when we drive positive health outcomes. Many of the capabilities in the video and that we are exploring, creating and offering to our members, help our members engage in their own health, access their information and care teams seamlessly, and stay healthier. They help care teams provide high-quality care that is more convenient and effective for the patient, and less costly for the care system and the patient. Better care and lower costs is a worthwhile passion, and it’s more critical today than ever. We have a passion for transforming health care, and providing technology-enabled, high-quality care anywhere is an essential path to that transformation.

The concept of imagining care anywhere is taken to truly great heights when NASA enters the conversation. What do you hope these types of meetings — in this case, with NASA — can mean in terms of transforming or advancing care delivery in the future here on earth?

At Kaiser Permanente we are imagining the future of health care. Imagination is so vital to the creation of a vision that can drive the transformation of health care. NASA is all about imagining possibilities in space. It’s pure discovery when they embark on space station research and apply insights and data to the advancement of treatment and of medical science, particularly to mobile patients. And who is more mobile than an astronaut? It gives new meaning to our theme of Imagining Care Anywhere. Kaiser Permanente isn’t planning any space station clinics—at least not right now—but you can see how our respective paths of discovery could intersect for the benefit of patients everywhere. Being able to engage in these conversations to imagine together the possibilities in health care and how to progress population health is good for us, for NASA, and for earth-bound patients.

This is the second year KP has partnered with NASA on an event. What does collaborating and exchanging ideas with an organization outside of health care mean for our members? I’d love to hear your take on the value in stepping outside what is familiar and the innovation that can result. 

There is no one organization, group, or certainly individual, that can transform health care alone. The challenge and the opportunity before us in health care require us to imagine beyond what we know and experience within our own walls, or even our own industry, today. When we interact with other smart people and organizations with big imaginations, we can make seemingly unrelated connections that solve problems. That’s what innovation is about – thinking differently. We must glean lessons and perspectives in efficient operations, consumer engagement, program management, disruptive innovation, service, and more from companies outside of health care. Whether it’s adopting a best practice or a simple invention for a health care application, or creating completely new solutions to improve health and lower costs, our members and consumers in general have so much to gain from the perspectives and solutions that can come out of cross-sector collaboration.  Great thinking has no boundaries!

New Weekly Podcast Series Brings Total Health to Your Fingertips…and Mobile Devices

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85245_Total_Health_Radio_v2In a recent episode of Kaiser Permanente’s new podcast series, Total Health Radio, guest Julie Sutherland, MD, from Kaiser Permanente Colorado, describes some of the unusual symptoms of heart attacks in women, which include “jaw pain, shoulder pain … shortness of breath, sweating.”

“You know what you just described to me?” replied the episode’s host, Joyce Gottesfeld, MD. “A hot flash!”

“Good point,” Dr. Sutherland replied. “It’s hard to distinguish sometimes!”

Officially launched on Oct. 16, Total Health Radio is Kaiser Permanente’s national foray into the world of podcasting, delivering motivating stories, valuable information and important health tips through a series of engaging conversations with featured guests.

The podcast series will cover a wide range of topics — especially women’s and family health — with the help of physicians, health experts and patients, who will share their experiences dealing with and overcoming health challenges.

Total Health Radio will feature rotating hosts, one of whom is Dr. Gottesfeld, an ob-gyn who has been practicing with Kaiser Permanente Colorado for 17 years.

“I love to educate women about their health, their bodies and the changes they are going to go through over the course of their lives,” said Dr. Gottesfeld. “I’m excited about Total Health Radio — reaching more people and really getting information out there in a way that’s engaging and can help people take care of themselves.”

Total Health Radio features programs about family health, women’s heart health and developing awareness of teen dating violence. Future topics will reflect Kaiser Permanente’s belief in total health — mind, body, and spirit — and will discuss such matters as:

  • breast cancer — risk, diagnosis and treatment, and recovery
  • healthy sleep
  • caffeine and kids
  • five things to know about flu season
  • mindfulness

The podcasts are free and available through mobile devices and personal computers at Kaiser Permanente’s recently launched website, Total Health Radio, as well as iTunes. Soon, it also will be available on the podcast-distribution platform Stitcher.

At, listeners can view show summaries, explore additional resources on featured topics, and check out bonus clips from shows.  You can listen to clips and sneak previews from all shows currently published on Soundcloud.

Tune in for Total Health Radio

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You’re about to have access to the health information that most interests you and your family in a whole new way.

This week, Kaiser Permanente is launching a new podcast series called Total Health Radio.

The show will feature one-on-one interviews between rotating hosts and guests — clinicians, subject matter experts, and everyday people with compelling stories to share. You’ll be able to listen to Total Health Radio on computers and mobile devices via its website. Soon it will be available also on iTunes and Stitcher.

Official launch of Total Health Radio is Wednesday, October 16, and we’ll post more about it then, but we’ve included a few sneak peeks below from the first three episodes.

You can find more information at

Imagining Care Anywhere — Really! Anywhere

By | Care Delivery, Health Innovation, Health IT, Health Sector, Mobility / Mobile Health, Video | One Comment

If you ever wonder when your everyday life — including health and health care — will finally start resembling Jetsons-level technology and convenience, you are not alone.

Kaiser Permanente just released its latest video illustrating its vision of “Imagining Care Anywhere.” It’s all about tools and systems that enable real-time, personalized care — and access to personal health information — anywhere and at any time.

Besides the fact that the capabilities the video proposes are just plain cool, these sort of, “What if…” videos further promote imagination and innovation in the health space. It’s not the first of its kind; Kaiser Permanente has released a similar video in the past.

What do you think — and what would you like to see when it comes to the future of your own personalized care?