CHICAGO — 2015 is the year that Marty McFly and Emmett Brown traveled to in "Back to the Future Part II," part of my favorite movie series, released back in 1989. And while we don't yet have flying cars or power-lacing shoes (or a Chicago Cubs World Series win), Doc and Marty likely would've been impressed with what's going on at Kaiser Permanente.
Bernard Tyson — chairman and CEO of the $60 billion Oakland, Calif., megasystem — laid out his vision for the future of health care during a speech at the International Hospital Federation World Hospital Congress on Wednesday. Hint: It doesn't involve throwing up a bunch of bricks and mortar and keeping beds filled with sick people.
We're all guilty of constantly staring at our smartphones, and Tyson hopes the system can leverage that addictive behavior to keep patients healthy and out of hospitals. Wearable consumer devices, too, offer a wealth of data to mine and find insights about what might be impacting a patient's health. Tyson shared this video from a couple of years ago, showing what care might look like if it made use of these tools and packaged them together with Kaiser's network of hospitals and other facilities.
"Imagine what it would be like when Kaiser Permanente fully integrates every aspect and every asset of what we have around individuals, around families and around populations," he said, "so that it becomes a natural part of their lives and not some separate event from their daily living and their daily lives."
"That's possible," he added after the video concluded, and the megasystem is investing about 6 percent of its revenues into technology to make sure it happens. Kaiser is already starting to see some of those investments pay off, with more than 1.5 million downloads of its mobile app, and more than 20 million e-visits conducted with doctors last year.
The 38-hospital, 10 million-member hospital system and health plan is also investing wisely in its facilities to provide care whenever and wherever patients want it, Tyson added. Its strategy includes everything from mobile and work-site clinics to smaller hospitals and health kiosks. More recently, it began experimenting with "specialty hubs" in the company's Mid-Atlantic region near Washington, D.C., which offer comprehensive outpatient services for patients with complex conditions. There, patients can have X-rays taken or surgery performed, all in a fast and convenient fashion.
Behavioral health is also a key piece of the population health puzzle that, perhaps, some are missing. Kaiser is looking to fill that gap with another recent initiative, offering patients more convenient appointments for mental health care services, better engagement to create treatment plans, and more individual therapy as part of a multimodal treatment plan.
"As I call it within Kaiser Permanente, it's the 'reattachment of the head to the rest of the body.' The way we even think about mental health in this country, I would offer to you, is wrong," Tyson said. "It is about 'treat it over there,' and right now in this country, many of our jail systems serve as the mental health hospital. It's something that we're committed to working on as part of the ecosystem of health."