Monday, September 7, 2009

Kaiser's fantastic innovation

Clearly, one of the greatest assets of large groups is the ability to innovate. I take as a case in point the Kaiser system, as detailed in the current Wired Magazine, in an article on low tech disruptive innovation. Check out pages 117-118:

"...Kaiser has long relied on a simple strategy of building complete, self-sustaining hospitals - employing 50 doctors or more - in each region it serves. 'It's an efficient model,' says Michele Flanagin, Kaiser's vice president of delivery systems strategy. 'It offers one-stop shopping: pharmacy and radiology and everything you want from health care in one building.' But that approach forces patients who don't live near a hospital to drive a long way for even the most routine doctor's appointment.

"As it happens, though, Kaiser has become one of the most technologically advanced health care providers in the country, digitizing everything from patient records and doctors' notes to lab data and prescriptions and putting it all online. The system is networked, so patients can email their doctor, check lab results, and make appointments from their PC or mobile web device. Getting a referral doesn't mean carrying medical records from one doctor to another, as it does at many hospitals.

"In 2007, Flanagin and her colleagues wondered what would happen if, instead of building a hospital in a new area, Kaiser just leased space in a strip mall, set up a high tech office, and hired two doctors to staff it. Thanks to the digitalization of records, patients could do to this 'microclinic' for most of their needs and seamlessly transition to a hospital farther away when necessary. So Flanagin and her team began a series of trials to see what such an office could do. The cut everything they could out of the clinics: no pharmacy, no radiology. They even explored cutting the receptionist in favor of an ATM-like kiosk where patients would check in with their Kaiser card.

"What they found is that the system performed very well. Two doctors working out of a microclinic could meet 80 percent of a typical patient's needs. With a hi-def video conferencing add-on, members could even link to a nearby hospital for a quick consult with a specialist. Patients would still need to travel to a full-size facility for major trauma, surgery, or access to expensive diagnostic equipment, but those are situations that arise infrequently."

My God, what an innovation!! Only Kaiser could do it! It looks like they have invented, wait, let me name it myself -- a doctor's office! It just goes to show you what good old American know-how can do. I am so proud to live in an area serviced by Kaiser. This Dr. Flanagin must be a genius.

Next up - the receptionist who smiles at you! (Oh, wait, they are eliminating that. Forgot.)

(Thanks to my friend Bob Levin, who gave me this issue of the magazine, actually for the article that follows on placebos, but I got sidetracked. I was telling Bob how much fun I was having with the blog. He said, "I wonder who suggested to you that you so it." Oh, yeah, it was him - forgot that for the moment.)

Budd Shenkin

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