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Healthcare organizations must, of course, serve patients in times of greatest need, but ultimately they must move beyond that toward preventive, holistic tools and services. And this with “digital as the spearhead”, says Prat Vemana, chief digital officer at Kaiser Permanente.
Vemana discussed Kaiser Permanente’s digitally-assisted efforts with customer experience (CX) in a live stream over the past week Transform 2022 event.
Vemana came from retail to healthcare just before COVID-19 and described herself as “a great student of the value chain.” As an IT leader in any industry, it’s important to assess the value chain to see how integrated it is and the efficiency within it, he said.
Typically, healthcare is “one of the most fragmented value chains,” Vemana said.
But digital capabilities have helped to improve the value chain, close loops and create more cohesive value chains. And, as was the case across all industries, the pandemic accelerated Kaiser Permanente’s digital adoption — essentially boosting healthcare technology as a whole, Vemana said.
A 360-degree view
Kaiser Permanente has four key stakeholders, he explained: members/non-members/communities, client brokers, clinicians and employees. Vemana’s primary focus is on the latter — it’s critical to give them everything they need to support the other categories, he said.
Because the 77-year-old healthcare company owns provider networks, healthcare facilities, labs and pharmacies, it has the advantage of being a “closed system” from a data perspective, Vemana said. They can build a 360-degree view of clients — from demographics to medical histories — and focus their efforts on the preventive side of healthcare.
This supports the company’s mission to “keep members healthier and live longer, healthier lives,” according to Vemana.
Data ‘the unlock’
Vemana reported that 84% of Kaiser Permanente members are registered with the digital app and 94% of those who logged in at least once in 2021. And this was across all demographics, he said.
Many simply log in to pay bills or view 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 world.
“That’s the huge opportunity in healthcare,” Vemana says.
Kaiser Permanente was an early adopter of electronic health records (EHRs), which allowed the system to standardize workflows and collect valuable data, he said. The company also moved from on-premises to the cloud in nine months, creating a data lake and modernizing artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure to deploy faster and more efficiently. The company is also looking at governance models around data bias, Vemana said.
Overall, due to issues of governance, privacy, model bias, and inconsistent industry standards, healthcare has been the slowest to adopt good data governance practices. But this is critical, because “data is really the unlock that healthcare needs,” Vemana says.
He underlined that organizations can have a vision, but if they can’t realize it with modern tools, “it just becomes an idea, just a PowerPoint slide. It never sees the light of day,” Vemana said.
So the “how” is the most important part.
“It’s this whole idea of not just bringing the data, but also bringing the data and using it and doing something about it,” Vemana says. “That’s one of the biggest unlocks we’ve had to go through as part of this latest healthcare transformation.”
The pivot with COVID-19 allowed Kaiser Permanente to establish a customer-centric taxonomy.
That is, explains Vemana, “How can we help them navigate to the right care, help them receive care, help them manage their condition from start to finish?”
To establish that customer taxonomy, a new business model and with it new governance structures had to be created. They also created purpose-built teams — to connect developers with doctors and technology tools, for example, so they can collaborate and focus on end goals.
As a result, customer satisfaction has soared, Vemana said: Kaiser Permanente’s app rating went from 3.3 to 4.4 stars, and the company’s overall ranking went up “in every possible industry index,” according to Vemana.
“This is because we empower teams,” he said. “We’ve put in place an operating model so they can act quickly and get things done.”
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