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Envisioning the Health Care of Tomorrow

Kaiser Permanente explores emerging technologies to imagine the future of health care delivery

January 20, 2017



By imagining a world of member experiences, Kaiser Permanente is preparing to transform the way it delivers care and approaches total health – the well-being of body, mind and spirit.

Meet Marcus, a 27-year-old who’s thinking about getting health insurance for the first time, but doesn’t know where to begin. He reaches out to his virtual assistant, Trinity, for a little help. Marcus researches his options and winds up choosing Kaiser Permanente as his wellness partner and health care provider.

Fast-forward to the future of care – driven by artificial intelligence, 3D printing, seamless user interfaces and “Uber”-like nurses – this is Kaiser Permanente’s Imagining Care Anywhere.

‘Visionary vignettes’

Marcus the Millennial is one of three Imaging Care Anywhere vignettes created in partnership with Kaiser Permanente’s Garfield Innovation Center and the Innovation & Advanced Technology group. ICA is a “provocation” of what care delivery and total health could very well look like in the not-so-distant future. With “provocation,” Kaiser Permanente is provoking – or disrupting – the way to think about the future, so it can prepare for it and begin to shape it.

“We began with three guiding principles to ensure members’ needs were always at the center,” says Jennifer Liebermann, senior director for the Garfield Innovation Center. Those principles are:

  • Everyday life is the new context of care.
  • Integrated care teams are linked to members, not places.
  • Personalized health experiences are enabled through technology.

The Kaiser Permanente teams then set out to envision scenarios of the organization’s members in their daily settings – at home, the doctor’s office, the hospital, or wherever they may be – using emerging technologies. This brainstorming led to the creation of “visionary vignettes,” stories of possible patient situations, and Kaiser Permanente’s response using future technologies and an evolving workforce to care for them.

gina-274x168In an another story, Gina experiences her first pregnancy, and uses home diagnostics to receive much of her care, including self-care, from the convenience of her living room.

“We were no longer designing Kaiser Permanente the way we think we needed to improve our future,” says Mike Holland, director, IAT. “With Imaging Care Anywhere, we began looking at our patients – their everyday experiences and the technologies they’re likely to embrace – to design and transform the future of Kaiser Permanente.”

Disrupting the status quo

ICA is also designed to encourage the organization’s nearly 200,000 employees to immerse themselves in the vignettes, and challenge them to envision how they can provoke the status quo in their own areas within Kaiser Permanente. It prompts them to think differently and ask questions such as:

  • How might Kaiser Permanente meet its members in various settings where they may need care?
  • What experiences are the organization’s members looking for and how might new technologies or roles enable these experiences?
  • How does Kaiser Permanente design for its members’ needs and work collaboratively across the organization?

For example, a technologist in a radiology setting might begin to explore how she can imagine care anywhere. Today, the technologist’s patient may be undergoing a scan that involves being immersed inside a confining machine within a dark, walled room, with no mobility and possibly much distress. What could improve that patient experience?

“Could we use mobile technology, such as an iPad, to replace the scan machine for the X-ray?” asks Holland. “Does then the patient – or even the technologist – need to come to a windowless place within a medical center for the scan?” This is just some of the thinking that ICA inspires.

By imagining the future of care now, Kaiser Permanente will be more prepared to deliver care the way its members and patients expect it in the future. So far, 35,000 people have participated in conversations about care anywhere, and the organization is already beginning to make that a reality. Numerous projects are underway that are bringing various concepts of ICA to life, including the future of nursing, monitoring diabetes from home, artificial intelligence, and voice activation.

For more inspiration, please visit the Imagining Care Anywhere website and see how imagining care anywhere is realized in Medicare and Maternity vignettes.