Kaiser Permanente members ‘mobilize’ to manage health care

posted on February 28, 2013

By Ginny McPartland,Heritage writer

Colossus was an early supercomputer that was used by the English to crack Nazi codes during the Second World War. The computer, at Betchley Park, England, is preserved in the National Museum of Computing opened with funds from English Heritage in 2008. Photo by Johnny Green/PA

Since the launch of Kaiser Permanente’s online member portal on kp.org, four million of the organization’s 9 million members have become My Health Manager users and racked up 116 million visits; they’ve retrieved 32 million test results, ordered 11.8 million prescription refills, and communicated with their physicians via secure email more than 13 million times.

More than 400,000 members have downloaded Kaiser Permanente’s mobile app since it debuted in January of 2012, and these members have clocked up more than 19 million mobile-optimized website visits.

It’s with this member e-engagement prowess that Kaiser Permanente information technology leaders participate in the annual conference of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society in New Orleans next week.

Morris Collen MD, (second from left) KP’s early digital guru, explains how data was collected and processed in the early 1960s. Cecil Cutting MD, first executive director of The Permanente Medical Group, (behind Collen) observes.

Kaiser Permanente’s digital success stems from its early adoption of computers beginning in 1960 – and to its medical care model that integrates physician offices, hospitals and health plan administration into one system of care.

As an integrated health system, rather than a fee-for-service model, Kaiser Permanente was able to complete its deployment of its electronic health record system, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, in early 2010. Consequently, KP providers can access health information about any member at any of the organization’s locations.

Informatics pioneer saw it coming

Forty-five years ago, in 1968, Kaiser Permanente’s digital guru was Morris Collen, MD. He was a physician and electrical engineer, an unusual career combination in his generation. At that time, he was hot on the trail of one of the first electronic medical records systems, at the cutting edge of computer technology. Dr. Collen will turn 100 on Nov. 12.

Dr. Collen started something big many years ago, and his successors have kept moving forward as pioneers in the medical digital world. When Dr. Collen took KP’s first step into computer technology in 1960, the industry was in its infancy.

Kaiser Permanente members can access their secure health records using mobile phones. They can also use KP’s “Every Body Walks!” mobile app.

KP’s first computer took up an entire room in Oakland, Calif. Since then, through the magic of technology, digital devices have shrunk, and shrunk, and shrunk some more until they can fit in your pocket. Amazing! But Dr. Collen predicted as much in 1998.

“By 2008,” he wrote: “Plan members will hold personal smart cards that will contain their basic health care information, including genetic information, for the predictive practice of medicine. . . Information technology will penetrate every aspect of professional practice, as very small, inexpensive computers pervade clinicians’ offices and examination rooms, nursing stations, procedure rooms, bedsides, clinics and patients’ homes.”

Dr. Collen also predicted – in Kaiser Permanente’s 1966 Annual Report – that patients would welcome a computer between them and their doctors. He said members would be happy their provider could glean instantly so much about their health from a robust and up-to-date electronic record.

Mobile users connect on the fly

The advanced connectivity of Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health record system means that members can go online any time of day or night – on a desktop or virtually anywhere else using a smart phone or other mobile device – and securely access their health information.

They can retrieve test results, order prescriptions, find health information, and make appointments. They can even enroll in online programs that will help them stick to an exercise regimen such as walking, or a nutritional program prescribed for diabetes or other chronic condition.

Perhaps most popular, patients can contact their doctor directly via secure email for advice or follow-up. This access eliminates unnecessary office visits and phone queues.

Getting KP HealthConnect up and running in all facilities, including 37 hospitals and 533 medical offices, makes it the largest non-government electronic health record system in the United States today.

KP well-represented at HIMSS

At HIMSS, a number of Kaiser Permanente experts will present talks on a variety of topics. Among them will be: Shawn Jackman and Nico Arcino who will discuss “Technology and Trajectory of Mobility in a New Health Care Model.” They’ll talk about how providers can stay ahead of mobile technology trends and plan for how their use affects workflow, policy and security.

Also on the bill are: Kate Christensen, MD, and Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, who will address the growing use of mobile applications to access health information and discuss how use of these apps can affect patient health and provider practices, and evolve patient-physician relationships.

As a health IT pioneer, Kaiser Permanente will have a strong presence at the HIMSS conference, having received 36 Stage 7 Hospital Awards – the highest level for successful electronic health record implementation. The award recognizes a hospital’s ability to deliver patient care without paper charts.

Since the award was instituted in 2005, HIMSS has bestowed the Stage 7 designation on only 104 of the nation’s more than 5,800 hospitals; 36 of those awards have gone to Kaiser Permanente hospitals.

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