The future of healthcare is digital

At Kaiser Permanente, we are building new digital tools, such as mobile apps and websites, to make it easier for our members to manage their health and get the care they need.

Our Chief Digital Officer Narayanan “Nari” Gopala answers 3 questions about how digital technology is changing healthcare. He also shared his excitement about leading this effort at Kaiser Permanente.

How are digital technologies changing the way we access healthcare?

Kaiser Permanente has a rich history of innovation, and we have long offered virtual care options like telemedicine. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, not everyone was comfortable using virtual care, and many people were used to seeing their doctor in person. Then, local COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect and people were confined to their homes, and we needed to quickly expand Kaiser Permanente’s virtual care options with new services like 24/7 virtual care.

Many patients are finding that they now prefer the convenience of virtual care to an in-person visit, especially for minor ailments like ear infections. If you don’t need to commute to a medical office to get the care you need, then why? Telemedicine can save you time and money on child care or other expenses.

In fact, at most clinics, more than 1 in 3 members who use our virtual care service do so after hours. Over the past year, more than 92% of members registered with have digitally accessed their medical records and lab results, scheduled appointments online or connected with their care team virtually.

What’s next for Kaiser Permanente?

Some people prefer a combination of in-person and virtual care options. Some health exams must be performed in a medical office. So we continue to use digital tools to improve every aspect of our members’ experience before, during and after their care visit.

We are improving our digital check-in process. Members can now fill out a pre-appointment form and pay their co-pay in the Kaiser Permanente app before arriving at the facility. It’s like when people check in before arriving at the airport.

We also recently introduced geolocation to provide a better on-site care experience at our medical centers. Geolocation is a smartphone technology that detects the location of your phone.

For example, during flu season, when members come in for a doctor’s appointment, geolocation via the app can remind them to get their flu shot, too. Geolocation can also enable wayfinding functionality within the app. With wayfinding, we can direct members to the floor where the flu shot clinic is located so they don’t have to stop at the front desk again.

If the app can help our members accomplish more health tasks in one doctor’s visit, we consider it an added convenience.

Digital tools can also help members manage their health and well-being after their visit. For example, members can use our app to schedule follow-up video appointments. Our members website also provides them with a personalized homepage with preventive care reminders, tips and resources relevant to their condition. They can even order prescription medication through the app and have it delivered to their door.

What digital tools do you think can help patients manage their health?

I’m very excited about the work we do to help people with ongoing health issues.

Recently, we began providing members with digital prescription reminders through the Kaiser Permanente app. Members can receive push notifications on their smartphones to remind them when to take their medication, such as after dinner or when they wake up in the morning.

This can eliminate some complexity for members who must take multiple medications to manage multiple health conditions. Consistently taking your medication on time can have a significant impact on your health.

Because most of our digital tools are securely connected, our members can access and enter their health data securely and easily, just like their care team. For example, members can upload blood sugar (glucose) levels to their electronic health record using a Bluetooth device connected to the app.

Such remote patient monitoring programs can help patients manage type 2 diabetes or hypertension from the comfort of their own home.

The future of healthcare means getting care when you need it, no matter where you are.

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