Taking telehealth, predictive analytics to the next level: Q&A with the Permanente Federation CIO Dr. Edward Lee

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Edward Lee, MD, executive vice president of IT and CIO of the Permanente Federation, part of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, joined the Becker's Healthcare podcast to discuss the intersection of patient care and technology, particularly telehealth.

Below is an excerpt from the podcast. Listen to the full episode here.

Question: What are your top priorities today and core areas of innovation in healthcare delivery?

Dr. Edward Lee: My job in general is to make it as easy as possible for our patients to receive high-quality, convenient and personalized care. On the flip side, I'm also focused on giving our physicians and care teams the tools they need to deliver that care. Our patients entrust their health to our physicians, and it's our obligation to meet those needs, and I think technology has a critical role in making that happen.

Telehealth is one of our big priorities. We've actually been doing telehealth at Kaiser Permanente for decades, and a lot of people think of it as just a video call, but it also includes secure emails, telephone encounters, chats and all sorts of telehealth modalities. Now more than ever, with COVID-19, we've been using telehealth at volumes that we've never done in the past.

Patients want it, and they want to remain connected to physicians while also maintaining social distancing so they can stay safe. On top of that, they're using telehealth in high levels, and we understand it saves them time. In particular with video visits, our physicians are also seeing those benefits of being able to diagnose patients that they couldn't do over email or phone calls. At the same time, they're able to build a rapport by seeing a patient's smile on the other end of the video stream. That builds a connection, which is the very reason that many of our physicians went into medicine in the first place.

Related to COVID-19, it's very exciting to see areas that use our predictive analytics technology. We've been doing predictive analytics for years as well, getting data, finding patterns, assessing risk and predicting outcomes. With respect to COVID-19, we've been looking at characteristics of our COVID-19 positive patients, understanding who's at higher risk for running into problems, so that we can keep a closer eye on those patients who need a high level of care. That's been very useful.

Also related to COVID-19, we've been hotspotting so we can look at our data, find the communities where we see a higher rate of COVID-19 and allow our system to mobilize our resources to be better prepared to care for the patients we anticipate will come through our hospitals.

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