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Healthcare organizations certainly need to serve patients in their greatest moments of need—but they must ultimately move beyond that toward preventative, holistic tools and services. It’s “digital as the tip of the spear,” said Prat Veman, chief digital officer at Kaiser Permanente.
Vemana, who came to healthcare from retail before COVID-19, described himself 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 efficiencies within it, he said.
Typically, healthcare has been “one of the most fragmented value chains,” Vemana said.
But digital capabilities have helped improve the value chain, close loops and create more integrated value chains. As in all industries, the pandemic accelerated Kaiser Permanente’s digital adoption — and put wind in the technology sails in health care overall, Vemana said.
360 degree view
Kaiser Permanente has four primary stakeholders, he explained: members/non-members/communities, client brokers, clinicians and employees. Vemana’s main focus is on the latter – it’s crucial to give them everything they need to be able to support other categories, he said.
Vemana said the 77-year-old healthcare company has the advantage of being a “closed system” in terms of data because it owns provider networks, care facilities, laboratories and pharmacies. They can create 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.
Vemana reported that 84% of Kaiser Permanente members are enrolled in its digital program and 94% logged in at least once in 2021.
Many log in simply 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.
“This is a huge opportunity in healthcare,” Vemana said.
Kaiser Permanente was an early adopter electronic health records (EHRs), he said, allows the system to standardize workflows and collect valuable data. The company also moved from on-premises management to the cloud in nine months, created a data lake and modernized its artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure to deploy more quickly and efficiently. The company is also looking at governance models around data bias, Vemana said.
Overall, healthcare has been the slowest to adopt good data management practices due to issues with governance, privacy, model bias, and inconsistent industry standards. But it’s critical because “data is really the key that healthcare needs,” Vemana said.
He noted that organizations can have a vision, but if they can’t implement it with modern tools, “it becomes just an idea, just a PowerPoint slide. He never sees daylight,” said Vemana.
So the “how” is the most important part.
“It’s not just about bringing the data, but the idea of bringing in and using the data and doing something about it,” Vemana said. “This is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome as part of the latest healthcare transformation.”
A pivot with COVID-19 allowed Kaiser Permanente to create a customer-first taxonomy.
That is, Vemana explained, “How can we help them get the right care, help them get care, help them manage their condition to the end?”
Building this customer taxonomy required the creation of a new operating model and thus new management structures. They’ve also created purpose-built teams—for example, pairing developers with doctors and tech tools so they can collaborate and focus on end goals.
As a result, customer satisfaction rose, Vemana said: Kaiser Permanente’s application rating went from 3.3 stars to 4.4 stars, and the company’s overall rating rose in “every possible industry index.”
“It’s because we’re strengthening teams,” he said. “We put in place an operating model so they can move quickly and get things done.”
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