We’ve recently written about some exciting new ideas and technology that will transform medicine in 2012, how mobile technology is playing a role in this transformation, and lauded investor Vinod Khosla addressed the question of whether or not algorithms (and technology) will replace doctors.
Younger, smaller companies have flexibility, and can often have a greater impact on innovation and evolution of industries than giant corporations that have been around for decades. When we talk about innovation and technology touching the health industry, it’s hard not to mention electronic medical records (EMRs). As recently as 2009, The New England Journal of Medicine found that only 1.5 percent of U.S. hospitals have a comprehensive electronic medical health system. Practice Fusion, a venture-backed startup we’ve covered recently, has become one of the biggest providers of EMRs in the country, with 25 million digitized to date.
While the free web-based system for physicians is making some great progress in this area, and is catalyzing change, it has to be tempered by the prior statistic — there’s still a long way to go. That’s why it’s such great news for the industry, when older, giant corporations — the big kahunas — jump on the bandwagon and show they’re willing to help push their industries forward.
Founded in 1945, California-based Kaiser Permanente is one of the largest not-for-profit managed care consortiums and health plan providers in the country, with 9 million members, nearly 170K employees, 15K physicians, 35 medical centers, and 430+ medical offices under its fold. Yesterday, the health care organization announced the release of a free Android app and mobile-optimized website through which its millions of members can access their own medical information on the go.
This means that Kaiser Permanente patients can get full access to the company’s health record system and all that comes with it, which they already could do through kp.org, from their mobile devices. In 2011, Kaiser more than 68 million lab test results available online to their patients, and through the Android app and mobile web app, patients can now get 24/7 access to lab results, diagnostic information, direct and secure email access to doctors, schedule appointments, and order prescription refills.
The company plans to release an app for iOS in the next few months, but in the meantime, non-Android users can get access to the same set of secure tools through its new mobile-optimized website through their devices’ browsers. What’s more, the apps also make it possible for family members and other care providers to get access on behalf of patients and accomplish the same tasks that they could at kp.org. This is great for people who are traveling and need to receive care from non-Kaiser Permanente providers.
The company’s data on how people are accessing its site is very telling, too, as it validates the notion that mobile technology has become an essential part of healthcare, as Kaiser told us that 14 percent of visits to its website now derive from mobile devices, a 46 percent growth since January 2011.
The health plan provider has previously released mobile apps for the iPhone, one that helps patients locate KP facilities and another app that encourages people to walk and pursue healthy activities, and while both are great tools, neither have the implications that giving broad access to EMRs does through Android, and soon iOS. Kaiser Permanente has made some great strides in HealthIT, and is set on pushing forward in mobile technology as well. If the other big health plan and healthcare providers follow suit, this can have an enormous effect on the health industry and patient care. It’s already further validation of the importance of EMRs.
As to security for its mobile website and apps, Kaiser Permanente says that it aims to protect the privacy and security of personal health information and has “implemented effective programs for information security and compliance … supported by multiple layers of security involving technology, policies, physical security, awareness and identity authentication.”
Members will be required to log on to mobile.kp.org, just as they do on kp.org today. “Security for mobile access includes (but is not limited to) user authentication, automatic log-out of ‘My Health Manager’ after a period of inactivity, and secure internet connections. Personal health information will remain on Kaiser Permanente’s secure servers, and no personal health information will be stored on a mobile device.”
At Kaiser Permanente, we think of the quest to maintain a secure environment as a journey, rather than a destination. As new technologies and threats emerge, Kaiser Permanente will continue to expand our security solutions, while enhancing care delivery through timely access to information.