Q&A: Kaiser Permanente CIO Dick Daniels

'We cannot deliver on our mission at KP without technology'
By Skip Snow
10:19 AM
Kaiser Permanente photo via Wikipedia

Dick Daniels, who took the reins as Kaiser Permanente's executive vice president and chief information officer this February, explains how IT is a principle means by which KP’s institutional goals are met.

[See also: Kaiser appoints new IT chief]

The behemoth $56.4 billion vertically integrated healthcare organization has long been go-to model for American healthcare. Spanning eight states and supporting a member population of just over 10 million people, Kaiser is a technology leader – with its electronic medical record considered a mission-critical.

Healthcare IT News recently spoke to Daniels about how he envisions technology's role as Kaiser grows and evolves.

[See also: Kaiser docs urge enthusiasm for IT]

On how technology and innovation are central at Kaiser Permanente:

We cannot deliver on our mission at KP without technology. Our mission is to deliver high-quality, affordable care improving the health of our members and the communities that we serve. First and foremost, my priority is making sure that we are effectively using technology to deliver on our mission.

We work on improving the convenience and the ease of use of our technology to deliver on our mission. We do that through effectively using innovation.

On new projects KP has in the works:

We are looking into new capabilities, such as:

  • Digitizing our membership cards so that people can store those on their mobile or tablet devices
  • Express check-in where members may check in for their appointments prior to getting to the facilities
  • Providing the capability for members to videoconference from their handhelds and hospital beds to their caregivers

On making innovations operational:

We do a lot of piloting of different technologies. It has been a challenge to actually spread some of the innovations from pilots across our organization. But we have been more intentional about that and it has been working. One example is in interactive patient care. Within our inpatient rooms in all of our hospitals, we put a sort of a television up in the hospital room. Patients can: order meals, watch movies on demand, browse the Internet, receive patient education through those devices (and have) the capability to videoconference from the patient room to, for example, consult with a specialist.

What we are doing here is taking some of these innovations we have piloted and making them part of our template going forward. That is how we’re spreading things across the organization.

On a new focus for IT, with wearables and remote chronic disease monitoring coming to the fore:

What we are working on right now is "consumerization." As a result of the influx of new consumers into the healthcare market, we are seeing a need to make sure that we provide friendlier technologies providing more capability and access, especially through the use of mobile devices.

As we see more wearables being used across America, we are thinking through how we might incorporate those wearables to help to help us do more remote patient monitoring. That is going to be really essential for us for improving their care.

We have developed the ability, for example, to bring in data from Jawbone and Fitbit, and bring that into a database. We have not yet taken that data to incorporate it into Epic or KP HealthConnect. But we do have the ability to bring data from devices so that it can be available, and in some cases our physicians can provide health coaching to members.

In the case of FDA-regulated, devices, we are starting to do some work with network-enabled glucometers. We are doing two pilots in Southern California and Colorado right now with glucometers to determine which one we wish to use. Data goes to a database first, and from there we incorporate information into Epic. We can look at data on a longitudinal basis and look at trends before it gets into the medical record. We are doing the pilot, so that we can prove this out and make sure we have the right glucometer, and that we have done proper work around how we handle the data.

We are looking at different devices as well as different databases that we can use to bring that data in because there are a number of choices we can make here.

On KP's convergence of population health management platforms:

We are effectively using population care in all of our regions, and it has proved very effective. But in some cases we are using different tools. Our desire is to see if we can’t converge onto a single population care tool.

What we are doing with population care across our organization is historical. We have different population care tools that we have used across our organization, and we are in the process of looking at some of the new entrants into the population care market to determine which direction we want to go.

On KP's relations with its IT vendors, and its hopes that they'll work better together:

I am satisfied with the vendor community on how they are working to address our needs and how they are working with us against our priorities.

On the point of interoperability, there is more work to do. We need the ability to come up with some common standards so the entire healthcare ecosystem can enable vendors to bring us products that work together with other vendor products.

Members of the healthcare ecosystem must work together with vendors to express collectively what we are looking for. Our accountability is to work with other healthcare institutions so that we’re communicating with one voice as to what our needs are. We have been working with the Care Connectivity Consortium, which includes Intermountain, Geisinger, Group Health, and Mayo Clinic.

The interoperability of medical record information is something that we should be working on together. That is going to help us better take care of patients.