The future of healthcare is digital

In fact, more than 1 in 3 members who use our virtual care service use it after hours for most clinics. And more than 92% of our members who sign up for kp.org have digitally accessed their medical records and lab results, scheduled appointments online or connected virtually with their care team in the past year.

Our Chief Digital Officer, Narayanan “Nari” Gopala, answers 3 questions about how digital is transforming healthcare. He also shares what excites him about leading this job at Kaiser Permanente.

How has digital technology changed the way we access healthcare?

Kaiser Permanente has a rich history of innovation, and we’ve been offering virtual care options like telehealth for a long time. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, not everyone felt comfortable using virtual care, and many people were used to seeing doctors only in person. Then local COVID-19 lockdowns went into effect, keeping people at home, and we had to quickly expand Kaiser Permanente’s virtual care capabilities with new services like 24/7 virtual care.

Many patients are finding that they now prefer the convenience of virtual care to in-person visits, especially for minor ailments such as ear infections. If you don’t have to travel to a doctor’s office to get the care you need, why would you? Telehealth saves you time and money on childcare or other expenses.

In fact, more than 1 in 3 members who use our virtual care service use it after hours for most clinics. And more than 92% of our members who sign up for kp.org have digitally accessed their medical records and lab results, scheduled appointments online or connected virtually with their care team in the past year.

What’s next for Kaiser Permanente?

Some people prefer a combination of in-person and virtual care options. And some health examinations must be done in a doctor’s office. That’s why we continue to use digital tools that improve all aspects of our members’ experiences—before, during and after their care visits.

We’re improving our digital check-in process. Members can now fill out pre-enrollment forms and pay their co-pays in the Kaiser Permanente app before arriving at the medical facility. It’s like how people check in for a flight before they get to the airport.

We also recently introduced geolocation to offer better personal care experiences at our medical centers. Geolocation is a smartphone technology that detects the phone’s location.

So for example, during flu season, when a member arrives for a doctor’s appointment, geolocation through the app can remind them to get a flu shot as well. Geolocation can also enable in-app wayfinding. 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 complete more health tasks with one trip to the doctor’s office, we see that as 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 a follow-up video meeting. Our website for members also provides them with a personalized home page with preventive care reminders, tips and resources related to their conditions. They can even order prescription refills through the app to be delivered to their door.

What digital tools do you see helping patients manage their health?

I am very excited about the work we do to help people who have ongoing health problems.

We recently began offering members digital prescription reminders through the Kaiser Permanente app. Members can receive a push notification on their smartphone that reminds them when to take their medication, such as after dinner or when they wake up in the morning.

For members who must take multiple medications to manage more than one health condition, this can remove some of the complexity. Consistently taking your medication on time can make all the difference to your health.

Because most of our digital tools are securely connected, it’s safe and easy for our members to access and enter their health data just like their care teams do. For example, members can use a Bluetooth device connected to an app to upload their blood sugar (glucose) levels to their electronic health records.

These types of remote patient monitoring programs help patients manage their type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure from the comfort of their homes.

The future of healthcare means getting care when you need it, wherever you are.

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