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Talking Code-A-Thons with Kaiser Permanente’s Madhu Nutakki


At the Code-A-Thon this week, we spent a few minutes with Madhu Nutakki, vice president for digital presence technologies at Kaiser Permanente.  Nutakki shared insight about the event and what KP’s new open API, Interchange, means in the short and long term.

CTH Blog:
So tell us about this Code-A-Thon event.  What is it about?

Madhu Nutakki:
Today at the Center for Total Health in beautiful Washington, D.C., we’re holding a Code-A-Thon built around Interchange – an API that Kaiser Permanente EVP and CIO Phil Fasano announced Monday at Health Datapalooza.  Interchange is going to start enabling innovation not just within KP, but also outside of our four walls.  We feel that’s the way to expand our footprint and applications for our consumers, and we can do it in a way that’s secure and private.  With it, our consumers can get much better user experiences built for them.

CTH Blog:
So who are the people participating in this Code-A-Thon, and what will they be doing over the 36 hour-long event?

We’re fortunate to host about 80 people here, both internal and external to KP.  We have about 10 physicians that are going to help us out, we have 20 people we refer to as catalysts, and we have 40 developers here.

The physicians are going to be focused on something called iThrive, which is about wellness and how we as consumers at Kaiser Permanente can better manage our total health.  The physicians will help us think through what those options are.

The catalysts serve as product managers, in a way.  They’ll enable us to build out these applications, think about what functionality we should have in them, and invigorate the teams.

The developers are the most important people in this room.  They’ll be working on this for 36 hours, and they’ll be building out these applications.

It’s a fun-filled event, and many of these people will work through the night.  We have Thrive breaks scheduled throughout the 36 hours to keep people feeling good.  We also have a midnight “Zombie’s Run,” for two miles, so anybody that’s interested can join us.  We’ll have a judging session at the end of the event where we’ll pick the top applications in eight different categories.

CTH Blog:
What do you find so valuable about Code-A-Thons?

Code-A-Thons are an extreme way to trigger innovation.  Typically, software development is a long, drawn-out process, taking months to a year.  A Code-A-Thon brings everybody who is interested in a concept together.  When you have people together, ideas flow much more freely.  And because they are co-located with the developers, any changes they want to make can happen that much more quickly.  So the product that comes out of a Code-A-Thon is that much more thought through and that much more reliable.

CTH Blog:
What do you see as the future for Interchange – beyond just apps benefitting Kaiser Permanente?

When we thought about Interchange, we thought about it very much as Kaiser Permanente’s contribution to the community.  API is a new concept for health care.  If you look at the retail market, Netflix and others have done it very well.  Our foray into this space will hopefully trigger innovation in general in health IT.

At the end of the day, Interchange has three purposes:  One is for consumers or KP members – hopefully they’ll get a better user experience by apps that are developed both internally and externally.  Second is for developers – developers now get access to our public data, and hopefully they can build interfaces from that.  And third is for Kaiser Permanente – we can expand our app portfolio that much more quickly.


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