While many providers are working on their first full-blown electronic health record system, Kaiser Permanente has been through the process several times, starting back in the 1990s. Some of its facilities had EHRs long before others; its eight different regions tried out different systems at various times. Every time the organizational information technology strategy changed directions, it required full technological and operational overhauls.

Now, there's one EHR across the entire organization, encompassing 36 hospitals, 430 medical offices, more than 14,000 physicians, and 8.6 million members. Kaiser accounts for more than half the hospitals that have achieved HIMSS Analytics' Stage 7 EMR adoption--a complete paperless system with advanced use of integrated data. Kaiser recently introduced a mobile phone app to allow its members to access their medical records, make appointments, e-mail their physicians, and refill prescriptions.

 It took seven years, but Senior VP and CIO Philip Fasano says the it was well worth the effort. Kaiser is starting to reap benefits that the entire U.S. health care system should get eventually, as long as providers embrace the advantages of integrated patient data.

"Virtual Kaiser Permanentes will be everywhere," he says. "It's the only way providers can meet patients' expectations. When you put a piece of technology in my hand that lets me communicate with my bank, schedule a haircut, manage my diet--I want to interact with my doctor the same way. In five years everyone will have one of these devices."

Fasano and executive director Jack Cochran M.D., will describe Kaiser's long EHR journey so that listeners can learn from its experience. They'll explain some of the lessons from earlier forays into EHRs, how they got everyone on board for a single system across all regions, and how Kaiser is using the EHR to make care more effective and less costly.

"When physicians and clinicians can get access to a patient's data no matter where they are, it's foundationally important to the improvements you can make in the members' health," Fasano says. "The entire industry owes it to the patients to have their information available electronically."

The session, “Success Enabled by Experience: How We Used Past Obstacles to Move Forward,” is scheduled on Feb. 22 at 8:30 a.m.

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