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Digital innovation across the patient journey for Kaiser Permanente

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Healthcare organizations must, of course, serve patients in times of greatest need — but they should ultimately go beyond that toward preventative, holistic tools and services. And this with “digital as the spearhead,” said Prat Vemana, chief digital officer with Kaiser Permanente. 

Vemana discussed Kaiser Permanente’s digitally supported efforts with customer experience (CX) in a livestream during last week’s Transform 2022 event. 

Coming to the healthcare realm from retail just before COVID-19, Vemana described himself as “a big student of the value chain.” As an IT leader in any industry, it is important to assess the value chain to see how integrated it is and the efficiencies within, he said. 

Typically, healthcare has been “one of the most fragmented value chains,” said Vemana. 

But digital capabilities have helped to improve the value chain, close loops and create more cohesive value chains. And, as was the case across industries, the pandemic accelerated Kaiser Permanente’s digital adoption — and essentially put wind in the sail of technology in healthcare as a whole, said Vemana. 

A 360-degree view

Kaiser Permanente has four key stakeholders, he explained: members/nonmembers/communities, customer brokers, clinicians and employees. Vemana’s primary focus is the latter — it is critical to give them everything they need to be able to support the other categories, he said. 

Because the 77-year-old healthcare company owns provider networks, care facilities, labs and pharmacies alike, it has an advantage in being a “closed system” from a data perspective, said Vemana. They can build a 360-degree view of customers — from demographics to medical history — and focus efforts on the preventative side of healthcare. 

This supports the company’s mission to “keep members healthier and live longer, healthier years,” said Vemana. 

Data ‘the unlock’

Vemana reported that 84% of Kaiser Permanente members are registered with its digital app, and that 94% of those logged in at least once in 2021. And this was across all demographics, he said. 

Many simply log on to pay bills or review lab results, but the company’s goal is to go beyond that to help them take better care of themselves and provide access to healthcare professionals in the digital realm. 

“That’s the huge opportunity in healthcare,” said Vemana. 

Kaiser Permanente was an early adopter of electronic health records (EHRs), which has enabled the system to standardize workflows and collect valuable data, he said. The company also moved from on-premises to the cloud in nine months, created a data lake and modernized artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure to deploy more quickly and efficiently. The company is also looking at governance models around data bias, said Vemana. 

Overall, due to issues around governance, privacy, model bias and inconsistent standards across the industry, healthcare has been the slowest to adopt good data management practices. But this is critical, as “data is truly the unlock that healthcare needs,” said Vemana. 

He underscored the fact that organizations can have a vision, but if they can’t bring that to fruition with modern tools, “it just becomes an idea, just a PowerPoint slide. It never sees the daylight,” said Vemana. 

So the “how” is the most important part. 

“It’s this whole idea of not only bringing the data, but bringing the data and using it and doing something about it,” said Vemana. “That’s one of the biggest unlocks that we needed to go through as part of this latest healthcare transformation.”

Customer-centricity 

The pivot with COVID-19 allowed Kaiser Permanente to establish a customer-first taxonomy. 

That is, explained Vemana, “How can we help them navigate to the right care, help them receive care, help them manage their condition end-to-end?”

Establishing that customer taxonomy has required creating a new operating model and, with that, new governance structures. They also created purpose-built teams — connecting developers with physicians and technology tools, for instance, so that they can collaborate and laser-focus on end goals. 

As a result, customer satisfaction is up, said Vemana: Kaiser Permanente’s app rating went from 3.3 to 4.4 stars, and the company’s overall rankings went up “in every possible industry indexing,” said Vemana. 

“This is because we empowered teams,” he said. “We put in an operating model so that they can move fast and get things done.”

Watch the full-length conversation from Transform 2022.

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