How Kaiser bet $4 billion on electronic health records -- and won

Kaiser Permanente CIO Philip Fasano explains how electronic records have paid off and the health care giant's embrace of mobile technology

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InfoWorld: What about analytics and data mining?

Fasano: We have a number of analytic systems that surround the core system to help provide care. We are always doing data mining. Our analytic programs go across all systems and monitor for what we call care gaps: "Are there tests you should be having?" "Did you fail to refill your prescription and as a consequence should we be calling to remind you?" We are constantly monitoring you as a patient.

InfoWorld: Are the analytics and so on part of Epic or add-ons?

Fasano: These are proprietary to Kaiser Permanente. But we also buy many systems, so the largest part of our job is integration.

InfoWorld: What happens if a patient has to leave Kaiser? How portable is their information?

Fasano: If you asked us for your electronic medical record, we would hand you a thumb drive that is encrypted and give you the encryption code. You could then go to your next provider, and it would be able to look at your health record from Kaiser. As long as you provide them the encryption code, they can read it.

InfoWorld: How are you using technology to lower operating costs?

Fasano: Here's a simple example: Just having an electronic health record that is connected with all the systems that have to do with delivery of care to a patient means you don't have patients taking duplicate tests. In the United States, I believe the cost of duplicate testing is about 15 to 17 percent of the total health care spend. We don't have that cost.

InfoWorld: Do spend a lot of time making a business case for your department?

Fasano: Absolutely. We have a very stringent business-case methodology for large IT products. If the cost is substantial enough, it goes all the way up to the board of directors.

InfoWorld: Right now, caregivers enter information on a desktop computer; sometimes the computer is on what you call a "WOW cart," a workstation on wheels. What is Kaiser doing to embrace mobile technology?

Fasano: On the patient side, your medical record, the ability to email your doctor, look at lab results, and other functions are completely available today on iPhones and Android devices.

We are completely embracing that technology on the internal side of the organization, too. We've just launched a project called Health360 that is focused on embracing new mobile technology across our entire health care system. It will be the next generation of technology for all our providers, so the WOW carts you see today may be a thing of the past in four years.

I envision our entire workforce embracing and using some form of mobile device. For some people, it may be relevant to put it on a stand and have a keyboard. Others will carry it with them and take full benefit of its mobile capabilities.

InfoWorld: How is the role of IT in health care changing?

Fasano: IT in health care is supporting care first, and frankly the physicians lead. IT absolutely has to be part of the movement to change health care, and this means a significant cultural change. IT needs to be a little more impatient with itself and embrace the need to transform more rapidly than has historically been the case.

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This article, "How Kaiser bet $4 billion on electronic health records -- and won," was originally published by Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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