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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Providers Look to Creatively Revolutionize Care

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Innovation in healthcare, when it comes to medical devices and pharmaceuticals, isn’t new. But technology relating to patients, such as health records and how patients interact with healthcare providers, can be lacking. The new territory means looking for ways to engage and care for patients outside of traditional hospital settings or office visits.

The territory is familiar for the Orange County providers the Business Journal spoke with, though it’s an ongoing conversation, and each provider tackles technology and innovation differently.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, meanwhile, has developed financial incentive programs for healthcare providers to adopt technology into their systems, including initiatives that reimburse care providers that use electronic health records to achieve better health outcomes. Reimbursement also extends to remote chronic care management, and increasingly to telemedicine.


Kaiser Permanente Southern California houses an Innovation Studio at its new Tustin Ranch medical office.

“We purposely put this innovation studio at the back of an operational clinic because we want to be as close as possible [to], but not in, the operation space so we can get interactions with doctors and patients,” Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer Tadashi Funahashi said.

The lab opened five years ago with the goal of creating solutions to deliver better, more cost-effective care.

“Our model is fundamentally a prepaid model,” Funahashi said. “A hospital [setting] is a very expensive way to deliver care, but what if we can compress the number of face-to-face visits and still deliver [quality] care?”

The innovation studio focuses on three areas: virtualized care; data analytics for personalized care; and incorporating patients’ social networks into their care. Funahashi said, “We are more aggressively pursuing the third component.”

That aspect takes into account socioeconomic status, education, employment and social support networks that affect how people live and age.

“When you buy a car, you want advice from your mom, friends … so why don’t we bring your social circle into your critical care?” Funahashi said. “Say a [patient] is sick with diabetes or high blood pressure, but he has a loving daughter who helps him with his diet … Maybe when we interact with a patient, we should have his family or friends come in for consultation hearings, or even [have the family or friend join using] video, with the patient’s permission … get everybody involved who would be responsible for his exercise, diet.”

The program is in the early research stage as the team explores the likelihood of healthcare providers leveraging patients’ social circles, such as family members and friends, to achieve better outcomes.

The innovation lab currently has more than 20 active projects roughly divided into 50% virtualized care, 25% data analytics, and 25% healthcare delivery infrastructure design.

Kaiser self-funds its innovation studio but would collaborate with external technology companies.

Its goal is to redesign care to optimize consistent, integrated delivery.

“To improve healthcare, you have to question the current structure and see if there’s some inefficiency from patients’ viewpoint,” Funahashi said, adding that Kaiser’s 28,294-square-foot medical office in La Habra, which is scheduled to open this year, will incorporate tested technologies developed by the innovation lab.

The facility is one of 10 new medical offices Kaiser is rolling out in Southern California. It boasts a “human-centered, design-driven” approach, such as a reception area reimagined as a public square.


MemorialCare Health System has internal innovation and technology departments, as well as funds that invest in healthcare technology.

MemorialCare’s information services division has over 400 employees focused primarily on technologies impacting clinical care and patient services, such as clinical communication and collaboration; voice recognition; universal imaging viewing and sharing; electronic medical records optimization; and telemedicine. Its innovation team meets monthly to review and recommend projects, Chief Executive Barry Arbuckle said.

MemorialCare also is involved in two strategic investment funds: the MemorialCare Innovation Fund and Summation Health Ventures. The funds focus on information technology, health services and medical devices.

“We set up a formal fund in 2005 and partnered with [Cedars-Sinai Health System] for the second fund [Summation Health] in 2014,” said Brant Heise, senior managing director of both funds. He said the funds are “evergreen,” open-ended and legally separate entities from the hospitals.

Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai is one of the largest nonprofit academic medical centers in the country. Summation Health is equally owned by it and MemorialCare.

Heise said the funds share the same structure and investment strategy, with each portfolio consisting of approximately 60% healthcare technology, 20% medical devices, and 20% a “catch-all.” The funds are active, but Heise said he’s stopped making new investments in the first fund and is focusing on Summation Health.

“Cedars-Sinai is a very large, prestigious academic center, and MemorialCare is a medium to large community health system, [offering] a different perspective.”

Heise said he believes that if the technologies MemorialCare and Cedars-Sinai invest in work for the two systems that they would be useful to 80% of healthcare providers.

Summation Health has 10 portfolio companies, including two new additions: San Francisco-based Hyp3r Inc., which provides real-time, location-based customer engagement for businesses, and Well Health Inc., which develops federally compliant provider-patient text messaging.


Reton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health’s California arm, St. Joseph Health, has its own take on technology, and its Southern California division, St. Joseph Hoag Health, will gradually incorporate the technologies that St. Joseph Health implements.

“If you look at St. Joseph [Health] within the acute or ambulatory space, we are actively providing care to patients, but if you look at technology in general, [electronic health records] has only been out since the mid-1990s,” said Michael Marino, who heads information services operations and clinical systems at St. Joseph Health.

Three areas of focus are sensor technology, electronic health records integration, and big data, and St. Joseph Health collaborates with three companies that it owns minority stakes in: San Antonio, Texas-based Airstrip Technologies, which it partnered with in 2014; Anaheim-based medical technology company Hart Inc., which it added in 2015; and Jacksonville, Fla.-based data analytics firm Clearsense LLC, which came on last year.

AirStrip’s platform makes disparate systems, data and devices interoperable. St. Joseph Health is adopting and implementing the company’s patient monitoring technology, which allows physicians and nurses to use smartphones to access critical clinical information, including live and historical waveform data previously accessible only at bedside, all while protecting the patient’s privacy.

Marino said St. Joseph Health is using the technology to provide obstetricians with real-time health data via smartphones and plans to use it to prevent heart attacks.

St. Joseph Health also is working with Hart’s namesake app designed to allow healthcare providers and patients better real-time access to medical records, lab results, post-visit instructions, and pill reminders, as well as personal wellness data, including fitness progress. The company has added to its offerings on-site patient check-in system Kiosk, and Clarity, which manages doctor workflows.

Clearsense performs real-time data analytics on data stored in disparate places, such as electronic medical records systems, labs, outpatient centers and insurance companies.

“Data comes from multiple settings, hospitals, ambulatory, emergency room,” Marino said. “Data is huge, and not being able to see all those data in real time, in a clear, organized [way], can cause inefficiency in care, repetitive care.”

St. Joseph Health is affiliated with healthcare incubator the Innovation Institute, which Marino described as a venture that takes ideas from inside and outside of the industry to develop for commercialization. The institute is a for-profit, limited liability company owned by five nonprofit health systems, including CHOC Children’s.


Technology is now an integral part of industry conversations, both for improving care and measuring outcomes. Funahashi said that when it comes to innovation, though, providers should look for solutions after identifying problems. “The problem in innovation is that people see something shiny and bright, they try to use it somewhere, and it won’t work. But if you know the problem you are trying to solve and you continue to look for a solution to that problem, then it will work.”

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