Kaiser Permanente's CIO Aims to Make Healthcare More Delightful

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Kaiser Permanente CIO Philip Fasano discusses how the electronic records 'bet' has paid off and how social and mobile technologies will advance the effort. He also offers advice on making big tech projects successful, how to encourage innovation, what it means for CIOs to be the 'CEO' of their organizations and why healthcare provider should be in the business of delighting customers and patients.

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With the U.S. Supreme Court now debating the fate of the so-called 'Obamacare' legislation passed in 2010, healthcare has been much in the news of late -- and not much of the news about healthcare is very good. That is, unless you're talking to Philip Fasano, executive vice president and CIO of Kaiser Permanente, the giant Oakland, CA-based integrated health system. Fasano, whose IT organization has delivered on a multi-billion dollar electronic medical records initiative, believes that healthcare's greatest days are ahead thanks to the rapid infusion of technology. In fact, Fasano thinks -- dare we say it -- that your healthcare provider should be in the business of delighting you.

In this latest installment of our CIO Interview Series, Fasano spoke with IDG Enterprise Chief Content Officer John Gallant about how the electronic records 'bet' has paid off for Kaiser Permanente and its roughly 9 million customers and patients, and how social and mobile technologies will advance the effort. He offers hard-won advice on making big tech projects successful and talks about what it means for CIOs to be the 'CEO' of their organizations.

Q: What was the role of the IT organization in helping shape and bring that vision to life.

A: Putting electronic medical record systems into an institution meant the IT organization was going to have a very large percentage of the responsibility. What I can tell you though is that any IT organization that believes they can do it alone is just destined to fail. At Kaiser Permanente, we did this as a team. Our care delivery leaders and our physicians, all of our clinicians were deeply involved in the development of this program and worked with IT extraordinarily closely, worked with our other business operators very closely, and as a consequence we were able to put together a capability that goes across the organization and is widely well received.

Any large-scale implementation has post-implementation challenges. People start to work with it and find its limitations pretty quickly. If we didn't have everyone completely involved and participating very actively -- both buying into and making the vision their own -- we would have been very challenged post-implementation. You really have to help people train on the system, learn some new capabilities that they might not have known existed in the system, so that they become not only proficient, but operate at an expert level.

Q: Where do you go from here? How do you build on the success that you've experienced to date? How would things like mobile or social tie into these initiatives?

A: Just a couple of months ago, we implemented out first substantial mobile app, which took our Internet capability, KP.org, and put it in the palm of your hands. This mobile app connects you anywhere in the world to your medical record, to your lab results, to your physician. You can email your doctor, you can make appointments through it. It's changed the game, in my opinion, relative to how healthcare needs to improve member and patient satisfaction with every facet of how they experience us. It's raised the bar on our ability to provide members information and in ways that just truly delight them.

I don't like spending a lot of time doing anything that has to do with my healthcare. The fact of the matter is if I have my mobile app on my iPhone, I don't have to. I can very conveniently interact with my physician, ask a question, get an answer, look at my lab results, renew a prescription, because I'll get a prescription reminder that says it's time to renew it. For me, that's a seamless couple of minutes of activity as opposed to a ride in the car and time in the pharmacy and picking it up. And then, by the way, I push the button to tell them to mail it to my home so I don't even have to do that. It just changes how I feel about my healthcare system, just having those capabilities.

Q: Talk about what's on the horizon for you and your team?

A: As we're looking at healthcare and information technology, it's very clear that most Americans are going to win in the convergence of those two activities. Information technology is going to make healthcare more accessible, more affordable in the future. Information technology is going to make accessing healthcare more convenient. Telemedicine is going to change the lives of people who are having challenges with mobility. In other words, they can't get in to see their doctor, but they can do a video visit or a video consult from their home. The technologies that are becoming off-the-shelf capabilities that most people can afford, or will be able to afford in time, will in fact support that.

The new iPad 3 has capabilities for video and advanced video at high definition that are quite interesting. As you look at the products that are being developed by the technology industry and how healthcare and most citizens are going to be able to access those, the greatest days for healthcare are right in front of us, particularly in this country.

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