More Than Half of Kaiser Permanente’s Patient Visits Are Done Virtually

October 6, 2016, 11:15 PM UTC

Hospitals make money when patients show up to receive services, but Kaiser Permanente isn’t convinced that’s the only way to run its health care business.

With the rise of mobile technology and online communications, the hospital chain has been increasingly using technology to cut down on the need for patients to trek to their doctor’s office. Last year, in fact, more interactions between Kaiser’s patients and health care providers were done virtually than through an in-person visit, CEO Bernard J. Tyson said on Thursday at Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco.

“For the first time, last year, we had over 110 million interactions between our physicians and our members,” said Tyson, adding that 52% of them were done via smartphone, videoconferencing, kiosks, and other technology tools.

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Tyson’s comments aligned nicely with this year’s conference theme of focusing on customers. As he explained, the health care industry has historically been designed around the physicians and providers, asking patients to come to their place of work. Kaiser Permanente is reversing this model by bringing health care services to the patients.

Luckily for Tyson, unlike many other health care providers, Kaiser Permanente is partially a not-for-profit organization, which allows him to focus on how best to spend his budget and serve patients instead of focusing on increasing revenue-generating visits and procedures, he added.

“What were now seeing is greater interaction with our members and the health care system,” said Tyson. “They’re asking different questions, they’re behaving more like consumers, and medical information now is becoming a critical part of how they’re making life choices.”

How 23andMe Is Disrupting Healthcare

Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of genetics company 23andMe, echoed the sentiment, adding that her company’s mission is to help its customers participate in their own health decisions by providing them with information about their genetics. The 10-year-old company sells saliva-based DNA-collection kits that customers order and send back to receive a range of information about their genetics. There’s no need to go to a doctor or geneticist to get information.

“All of you are quite capable of learning about genetics,” she added.

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