Zero to One Million in One Month! Is KP’s mHealth initiative the fastest ever adoption of a digital health service in history?

Wow… a fascinating video interview at HIMSS of George Halvorson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, by Matthew Holt, founder and senior contributor at Health 2.0 News, reveals the massive step change care providers can expect when they engage with patients on their mobile phones:

Within one month of the launch (noted previously here) they’ve managed to get 1 million patients (of a total patient population of 9 million patients) to log into their mobile accessible patient portal.


The electronic medical record of all of our patients all of the time, real time medical information available to the Doctor in the exam room and at the point of care is extremely important and we have all of the information on our patients all of the time and the Doctors can follow up with patients, we track care, we’ve got systems to identify the care groups and plans for patients and we can follow up with the patients to make sure the plans are followed. We can check to see if the prescriptions are refilled we can interact with the patient and make sure refills happen when they need to happen so it’s an interactive systme that we could have done before we have the electronic information…

…our physicians love (the change), if you asked them to go back to a paper based Electronic Medical Record they would all quit and go work somewhere else where they have one. We would literally lose the entire medical staff because they now love just knowing about patients. They don’t have to guess anymore. They used to have to guess, remember things, they had memory joggers and all of a sudden now they’ve got all the information and it’s available conveniently and in an accessible form. And Doctors like that a lot. Doctors like making informed decisions and a medical record informs a decision.

…the world (of healthcare IT) is going to change faster in the next 2 years than it has done in the last 20 years…

…we have two alternatives the first is rationing, and that’s a horrible horrible thing, and the second is reengineering care to make it more affordable and better… …if everyone else is rationing and we’re reengineering that’s bad for Kaiser Permanente. We need to get everyone to reengineer. So the goal is to get everyone reengineering so we don’t have to ration…

…that (mobile) app is really hard (for other care providers) to do because of fragmentation. Kaiser Permanente’s ability to do comprehensive complete agenda that’s patient focused means that even if they can beat us on price we’ll beat them on functionality because we’re vertically integrated and we have all the data…

Do you have platform plans?: …we’re not likely to do that in a mode that gives anyone access to our software it’s not going to be a collaborative process but what is likely to happen is one of the reasons we’ve got a lot of people at HIMSS is that we’re walking around looking at and for the next best thing and if we find the next best new thing – and we’ll find things – we’ll incorporate them. We’ll bring them into our network. We take care of 9 million people – that’s bigger than 135 countries. We’re big enough to bring the next best thing into our system with our functionality so we’re looking for other people with good ideas and we want to bring those ideas into the system in terms of having them come into our system and codevelop that’s not going to happen because patient data security is so important to us. We’ve got a bright shiny line around our data and we don’t want anyone else getting inside that wall we’re bringing stuff in. (But) it doesn’t have to be invented here…

My Thoughts:

It’s great to see KP’s mHealth strategy paying off so effectively as they execute on their plans rather than continue to persist at attempts to be “Sifting through the hype” like we still see with so many of their competitors.

It’s strikingly clear that patients prefer Mobile over PC for interacting with their Healthcare provider: Compare this 11% of patients who used the service on their mobile in the first month to the patient adoption that resulted from the NHS’s $22 Billion national programme for IT that resulted in only 0.13% of eligible patients visited the healthspace portal on their PC over a 3 year period.

The KP approach to mHealth should also provide a good lesson to the UK’s NHS who are currently very confused about smartphone app possibilities. Patients will engage but you’ve got to offer them something they want and topping the bill of that in survey after survey (and proven yet again by this success story at KP) is communication with their Doctors and care team.

It’s clear that it’s going to be through adoption by patients that leaders are going to emerge. Talking about being the healthcare equivalent of the “Visa for Banks” is interesting but I’m unsure whether it’s valid to think of Visa as a “one time system” or whether the US Healthcare market will go for a “one time system” – especially as the focus here is so firmly on provider ownership of patient data.

I get the feeling that having a “bright shiny line around our data” might seem a great idea but be extremely difficult to enforce in practice as it will inevitably be challenged by patients who may (quite rightly) feel it’s actually their data.

Now that KP have shown other care providers how to get patients adopting digital tools I’d expect the competition to want to emulate this model very quickly. I imagine the phones at the US office of the Microsoft HealthVault team will be ringing off the hook next week: “Do you know that thing you showed us and we told you it wasn’t something we thought our patients would want? Well it happens that our CEO got a demo of KP’s mobile service at HIMSS last week and we need that implemented here by next week! OK?”

I really hope the US telecom brands seize the massive opportunity they have to capitalise on this and move to support the momentum that KP is building here for the mHealth industry.

> Imagine the impact if Verizon zero rated the KP.ORG website when patients accessed it on their network.

> Imagine if the CTIA got it’s members to agree to zero rate this content so no patient got bill shock as a result of visiting their healthcare provider portal.

> Imagine the impact if app stores enforced extra strict regulation and vigilence for KP named/branded apps and mobile adverts to help ensure patients could trust the provenance and authenticity of KP mobile content.

> Imagine if the big device makers (eg. Apple, Nokia and Samsung) installed shortcut keys and settings on their new devices to make it all more discoverable and easier for KP patients who buy new smartphones to access the content for the first time?

* NB I’m specifically not comparing this with the enormous overnight adoption rates of mHealth we’ve witnessed when widespread emergency situations (eg. in Japan’s Earthquake/Tsunami millions of patients went online with their mobiles when the voice channels were inactivated for the public, in the UK H1N1 Swine Flu Hotlines were called by 1million+ callers, etc) develop as I think it’s hard to appreciate the impact of patient limitations/desperation in these instances whereas what we’re seeing with this adoption trend is through KP’s focus on patient preference.

*** *** UPDATE 31st JULY 2015 *** ***

MobiHealthNews: Kaiser’s 2014 Annual Report reveals 4.9M members use Kaiser’s online health management platform

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40 thoughts on “Zero to One Million in One Month! Is KP’s mHealth initiative the fastest ever adoption of a digital health service in history?

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