Kaiser IT initiatives ready for pilots, rollout

By Patty Enrado
09:32 AM

Kaiser Permanente is preparing to expand an IT pilot, while other IT initiatives are being piloted in limited production or tested at its R&D facility.

The Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center, named for Kaiser Permanente's founding physician, provides a "road test" environment for what Director Jennifer Liebermann calls "the future of healthcare."

Two Kaiser Permanente medical centers have been piloting tablet PCs for nursing documentation, which was first tested at the Garfield Center. Kaiser Permanente is preparing to roll out the tablet PCs to more clinical settings, Liebermann said.

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Kiosks, similar to airline kiosks at the airport, are being piloted at Kaiser Permanente's Southern California facilities. The kiosks enable patients to electronically check into the facility and receive their room assignment, she said.

The Garfield Center, which turns three years old in June, enables the collaboration between physicians and IT staff, and supports Kaiser Permanente's vision of real-time, personalized healthcare, said Jamie Ferguson, executive director of Health IT Strategy and Policy.

For its population care pilots, Kaiser Permanente's Smart Tools mine its electronic health record system, KP HealthConnect, to identify at-risk populations. Its pilots have documented the prevention of life-threatening crises, which is a key to ROI, said Ferguson. Its breast cancer screening has increased 11 percent, saving 550 lives. Its colon cancer screening has increased by 23 percent and saved 3,664 lives, and its heart disease pilot has reduced cardiac mortality by 73 percent, saving 135 lives. "We measure ROI in lives saved," Ferguson said.

Sean Chai, senior IT manager, said the Garfield Center looks at emerging technology and cultivates innovation. Kaiser Permanente's five-to-10 year strategy is to make the home the hub of care, he said. Pilot programs in the home environment are using telemedicine applications for such things as physician visits, monitors to collect vital signs, televisions as interactive care devices and e-visits.

Kaiser Permanente is also testing biometrics to create a more efficient way of clinicians accessing their desktops. The technology's authentication process looks at up to 1,000 attributes in the nose and eyes area, Chai said.

The Garfield Center is also where side-by-side testing - similar to how Consumer Reports operates - is done by healthcare IT vendors, Liebermann said. Its operating room is designed to accommodate telemedicine monitors and dashboards on large PC screens.

"Technology can support physicians to make care better," said Andrew Wiesenthal, MD, associate executive director of the Permanente Federation and co-leader of Kaiser Permanente's healthcare information system efforts. Technology is changing medicine by providing a complete healthcare system, end-to-end EHR, continuity of care and a deeper doctor-patient relationship, he said.

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