Crafting Health Care’s Future at Kaiser Permanente

Dr. Yan Chow, a director of innovation and advanced technology at Kaiser Permanente, discusses the strategic imperative of analytics and its potential impact on health care.

Deep in the heart of an industrial park in San Leandro, California, is an unassuming warehouse that could house anything — consumable goods to pipe fittings. But open the doors and you find a technologically advanced living laboratory — the Garfield Innovation Center — which is part of Kaiser Permanente’s integrated health care delivery system.

The center brings together collaborative teams from across health care disciplines, including engineers, architects, technologists, physicians and nurses. Together, they're piloting innovative care solutions and developing a vision for what U.S. health care might look like in the future.

Dr. Yan Chow is a director in the Innovation and Advanced Technology group at Kaiser Permanente. A physician with over two decades of primary care clinical experience, Dr. Chow also has a keen interest in technology. He has founded several technology startups and is a software and database developer. He is co-inventor of ultrafast network storage technology with three U.S. patents. His areas of expertise include health care IT innovation, telehealth, big data and analytics.

Dr. Chow spoke with MIT Sloan Management Review contributing editor Renee Boucher Ferguson about his work at the Garfield Innovation Center and the impact of data and analytics on the future of health care.

What is the role of the Innovation and Advanced Technology group within Kaiser Permanente?

One of the reasons that Kaiser Permanente seems to attract a lot of attention from technology startups is that many of them have models that cross silos. If they were to do any kind of a proof of concept in the health care market outside of Kaiser Permanente, it would be prohibitive. Inside Kaiser Permanente, because of our integrated care delivery system, we have access to pharmacy data, lab data and all kinds of other data.

I joined the Innovation and Advanced Technology group as a founding member in 2006. At that time, there were three visionary leaders at Kaiser Permanente. One was Christine Malcolm, who was heading the National Facilities Services. That’s the group that designs and builds hospitals and clinics for Kaiser Permanente. There was also Dave Watson, who was the chief technology officer in IT, and also Marilyn Chow, who was the chief nursing officer.

They decided to create two structures to assess the future.

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