Earlier this year we reported that Kaiser Permanente was planning on rolling out a national campaign for text message based appointment reminders after the company conducted a successful pilot. This week at the HIMSS event in Chicago, we caught up with Kaiser's Director of Enterprise Engineering Carlos Matos and VP of Public Relations Holly Potter to discuss the text message reminder rollout and other wireless health initiatives that Kaiser has under development. As you might expect, they say text messaging is just the first step toward a more connected KP patient.
"SMS is just one part of it," Matos said. "Our communications strategy is going to have several types of outreach: SMS is one, email is another. Patients using their kp.org email address can get reminders sent there too." Going through the company's own email portal helps it manage the privacy and security concerns, but for those who use text, clearly that option will be more convenient in the longterm since it reaches them anytime, anywhere. Chances are most patients do not use the kp.org email address as their primary one.
That said, Kaiser Permanente has about 3 million users of its online MyHealthManager portal where 600,000 messages are exchanged each month between patients and doctors. The portal gets 80,000 new members a month, so Kaiser expects to officially hit the 3 million user mark in about two weeks, Potter said. The 3 million user figure is especially impressive since the company has 8.6 million patients total, and patients need to be 18 years old or older to use the online portal.
Online users can access their PHR online and view lab results, schedule appointments and even refill prescriptions. Kaiser is currently testing text message pilots on top of some of those functionalities.
"On the SMS side we have had some good success with [text message] integration where we send notifications directly to member [mobile phones] for a variety of reasons," Matos said. "Our plan is to stimulate more immediacy for our members and also make these communications more feature rich by integrating Kaiser Permanente's carepoint solutions. We want to be able to provide outreach methods that traditionally took the form of mailings and convert those communications to kp.org or SMS."
Matos also explained that text messaging can help with the companies population care management. As an example, a diabetic who has not had an A1c exam in a certain amount of time may be notified based on several different elements pulled from his EMR that it's time to come in for an appointment.
Kaiser Permanente is also "white boarding" a number of other innovation projects. One of the next services we see come out of Kaiser's innovation team may be support for connected biomed devices--simple ones like blood pressure monitors that KP can equip their patients with at home. These really improve clinical outcomes, Matos said, and they let providers capture very granular information that they can then use to make decisions based on that data analysis. One simple example is tracking a congestive heart failure patient's weight over time.
Another goal is to continue to extend the reach of the kp.org portal beyond online access and simple text notifications. The next step is making MyHealthManager easily accessible from mobile devices, which would make for a mobile PHR. As part of that, the company is mulling data mashup functionality and new ways to enable patients to share that information with other caregivers like family members.
"We are hoping to leverage the richness of the data we already have on kp.org as well as the toolsets that are available today--like the solutions being demonstrated by many companies here this week [at HIMSS]," Matos said. "We have a number of populations management tools in-house that we haven't yet leveraged fully for both handheld devices and our online portal. These services are what's most exciting for Kaiser and what makes this industry a lot of fun for us. These projects are what place us apart from other medical institutions in the U.S. healthcare industry."