Patient Online Access in the Safety Net

I admit, that maybe, once or twice in my past, I may have used convening and convener in less than flattering terms, much like I used to use “process” in unflattering terms. I learned through LEAN, though, that process isn’t bad, bad process is bad. And so I have learned the same thing about convening, now that I have done it a couple times this summer, with the California Healthcare Foundation.

The most recent time was yesterday, when Veenu Aulakh, MPH, and I brought together Safety Net health care organizations, and national experts in patient online access and social impact of the Internet to talk about (you can guess…) “Patient Online Access in the Safety Net.”

These being the first convenings I have co-led, rather than participated in, I have learned a ton, and have gotten a good understanding of doing this for a purpose, which both situations have had. In the event we hosted yesterday, in Oakland, I put together an A3 document before we invited anyone, which included the background, the goals, and most importantly, the “why?” we were doing this in the first place. It was really helpful to have created agreement around the “why?” – I referred to this many times in the planning.

At the event itself, I got a new perspective that I had not had as a participant previously. It was one of listener/observer – even when I was doing the talking, I was interested to see reactions and learn what people and organizations are capable of. It made me think that when I have been a participant in convenings in the past, this is what my hosts were doing – learning what myself or my organization was capable of doing to solve a problem, as much as they might have tapped me as an expert. Interesting to have this happening in my brain.

Sharing information happened, too, courtesy of some of the most innovative organizations in the U.S., including Cambridge Health Alliance, University of California, San Francisco’s Positive Health Program , New York’s Primary Care Information Project, Institute for Family Health, and Kaiser Permanente.

In addition to all of this, there were a few nice moments of recognition for people’s work, such as when Jim Kahn, MD, thanked Kate Christensen, MD, and her team at Kaiser Permanente for their support and assistance in the launch of the myHERO patient portal for HIV patients cared for at San Francisco General Hospital.

…and a little something for me, a follow-up conversation with Hilary Worthen, MD, from Cambridge Health Alliance, about his study and pathway to discover and implement LEAN in primary care at CHA. He told me that for him, this is a transition from thinking about exam rooms and staff to “work that you need to get done, defined by doctor and patient.” I love hearing about how people apply their creativity and copy the thinking of LEAN to do exceptional things for their patients.

This being the second time I have done this, I don’t know if it was perfect. We tried a lot of things I’ve not done in meetings before, and I am still working to integrate social media before, during, and after. I am definitely sold on my philosophy of supporting any and all technology use (“if you need or want to use your device, use it”) – I have not, in my conveningness, come around to the “turn your devices off” philosophy, as I have written about previously.

Oh, and I learned that a 60″ table seats 8 people.

Here are a few images from yesterday. I’ll follow up with my slides in a separate post. Click on any to see larger size.


Thanks, Ted! You are a natural convener, as is Veenu, so of course the event was a success.

I really enjoyed the 2.0 nature of my session, particularly how we asked the participants to first mark up my "internet access thermometers" so that my remarks focused on the populations they serve (not the populations I usually focus on or necessarily have the best data on) like rural low-income, recent immigrants (esp. from Asia & Africa), and people with no fixed address. The group's questions highlighted both the limitations of my data (we can't capture everyone if we rely on cell & landline surveys) as well as the excellence of my data (what we do know, we know well, like the fact that teens are almost universally online no matter what their household income level).

It was well worth taking a day away from my vacation to do!!

Thanks again, Susannah, and I am going to add "I enjoyed the 2.0 nature of the experience" to the list of things I would like people to come away with whenever I do one of these things (the other is "you accepted feedback well").

I really enjoyed watching people interact with the data and provide ideas for it to work better in their environments. Thanks for being interested in the social impact of the Internet for all people. There's nothing like what you do anywhere,


Ted Eytan, MD