Accepting the challenge to go tablet at Kaiser Permanente, what I learned at our Innovation Retreat 5.0

This quote from Businessweek caught my eye:

Book Review: Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-Founder of Microsoft by Paul Allen – BusinessWeek – The addiction to Windows prevented Microsoft from realizing how innovation in the consumer space can drive changes in technology—not the other way around. “Here’s what the death knell for the personal computer will sound like: Mainly I use my phone/pad, but I still use my PC to write long e-mails and documents. Most people aren’t there yet,” Allen writes, “but that’s where we’re headed.”

I read it just a few days after the Kaiser Permanente Chief Information Officer Phil Fasano, a Mobility Challenge for a small group of innovators at the 5th Kaiser Permanente Innovation Retreat this year. The group was divided into thirds, with one third receiving a Kaiser Permanente-provisioned Apple iPad2, one third a Kaiser Permanente-provisioned Samsung Galaxy, one third a provisioned Motorola Xoom. With the idea that these devices could eventually help replace the 200,000 + PC’s in use at Kaiser Permanente, we were asked to try to assist in this journey.

Phil said something very compelling to us/me, which is that he has not really used a PC in over a year and a half. That’s an important statement from a Chief Information Officer with his amount of scope. The following week, I was giving a tour of the Center for Total Health to local DC innovator Ray Schillinger (@rayschillinger)  who further encouraged me by saying, “eventually, my friends gave up on their laptops.”

I am ready, willing and able to try, in the interest of reducing the impact on our environment and improving efficiency (and ultimately the cost of health care, the reason for this), in powering all of these machines and recyclying their materials, many of which are toxic. And so far, I am achieving what I consider success, the laptop is less lugged, and I am working to finally deal with the iPad keyboard (I had been using the tablet as a reading device mostly, prior to this). Paul Allen’s words are coming true for me…. The fact that the organization is supporting the devices officially, including help-desk support, and the visible support of our leadership makes a huge difference.

The rest of the retreat was equally compelling, with an “immersion exercise” (brilliantly planned, in my opinion) around innovation and crossing the o-gap as it is called, which is taking an innovation from prototype to operations, and eventually across a system.

There was a gallery walk of a few innovative efforts at Kaiser Permanente that totally impressed me.

First for me is Nurse Knowledge Exchange “Plus”, which concerns the sharing of nursing plans with patients and families involved (at the bedside). The “plus” is involving the people around the nursing staff in making this successful – changing the whole ecosystem to focus on the patient. The innovation itself is incredible, the icing on the cake is the way the Innovation Consultancy, specifically Christi Zuber, RN, MHA ( @czuber ) talks about it. No boring powerpoint slides, she uses the technique of the design thinker, to tell a compelling story about what it means for a nurse and a patient to adopt a new way of working that’s human centered and designed.

Second is the Kaiser Permanente Total Health Environment – you can read about it on this New York Times blog piece, my understanding is many more details will be available as well. Total Health Environment is the building of the promise of “Total Health” into the physical facilities of health care. I love it because it is one of those things that people don’t think about but they should – that the space where health is sought should be healthy and project health itself. If you look at the photos in the piece above, you’ll see what I mean. Not only is there a commitment to the visual, there is a commitment to the local (see my blog post about my visit to Colorado) in the form of artists in the community, as well as a commitment to the renewable, with building materials vetted for their toxicity and avoided if they are unhealthy.

As Phil took us through the history of the retreat, it was pretty amazing to think that the space we were sitting in, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health, didn’t exist a year earlier – it was almost literally a powerpoint slide deck. From this point forward, it would now be possible to talk about the future of health in a specialized space that is not a hotel basement.

An overall theme of learning for me was about recognizing the passions of others in doing great things for the health system and society – innovation really is in the DNA of the people and the organization.

As I posted previously, on day 2, we happened to be walking on the 1 year anniversary of the largest oil spill in history, and took our photo with a volunteer from an organization marking the event ( It is good to feel in these moments that we are supported in making the choices that are right for our organization, for our community, and our society, and those are the choices we are naturally drawn to because of who we are.


Hi Nedrra,

We are just 3 weeks into things, so no data yet. Part of what I am learning is a combination of the technology plus the enterprise environment plus the health care setting plus an integrated care system – I think the experience will contribute a lot to what we know about tablets in medicine. As soon as there is something to say I will post here or link to it wherever it is published,


I appreciate your quick reply and look forward to the post or link. Thanks for all you do.

BTW: I recently joined Kaiser Permanente as a member/patient. As the founder of an online diabetes management and tracking service (, I was one Big Happy Face on my first office visit to one of their larger clinics and hospitals in Silicon Valley. It's wonderful to see their level of online integration. Wonderful!!

Hi Nedrra,

Thanks for the kind words and for your interest, I will definitely bring it to my colleagues!



Ted Eytan, MD