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  • Nick Johnson

Kaiser Permanente CEO on the Future of Care and Medicine

How can the consumer healthcare experience be as straightforward as making a restaurant reservation? How can AI help improve the speed of disease diagnosis to improve people’s lives? These are just a few questions that come up in conversation with Bernard J. Tyson. Tyson is the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, one of America’s leading integrated healthcare providers and not-for-profit health plans. We were honored to have Tyson share the stage at Dreamforce last year, and had the chance for a follow-up discussion.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution heralds a paradigm shift for a company’s role in society. For instance, as companies adapt their business models to leverage emerging technologies, new ethical issues (privacy, control of data, inequality, bias, etc.) become apparent.

What is the role of the CEO in navigating this changing world in a way that empowers employees and customers, and drives opportunity for all?

As CEO, you are managing today’s business, while strategizing for the future success of the organization. The CEO sets the tone at the top for the organization. At Kaiser Permanente, for example, I talk about the importance of speaking up. Thousands of employees and physicians are making lifesaving decisions at the front lines of care every day. I am creating the environment where we recruit people who want to deliver on our organization’s mission — and believe they have a voice in improving the care and coverage we deliver.

The healthcare industry is undergoing an important transformation. Consumers expect healthcare to be available like conducting their banking, reserving their airline seats, and making restaurant reservations.

Our members can access their care from face-to-face appointments to video chats or secure emails. They have a choice and that is creating innovations, opportunities in healthcare, and new ways to deliver better health for all.

How do you ensure Kaiser Permanente is as fast-moving and innovative as the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands?

As an organization that serves 12 million members and 65 million residents in the communities we serve, we’re seeing that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing incredible change. If I had the opportunity to create Kaiser Permanente today, it would be built around technology, to complement the places where consumers get care. The healthcare industry has been built around the place, originating with the hospital. The Fourth Industrial Revolution demands innovative thinking, and at Kaiser Permanente we have pockets of innovation happening across the organization. We assess the outcomes with one requirement for pilot programs being the ability to scale up and deliver the same high standards of quality and service that deliver better health to millions of Americans.

We are also looking at how we can move care upstream. For example, how can we prevent chronic disease? How can we diagnose and treat chronic care diseases early, so people have a better chance at living healthy lives? This is all part of the innovative thinking that will be required as we move forward as a society.

How do you anticipate artificial intelligence (AI) will impact healthcare — for both patients and employees?

If you look at the exponential increase in the amount of knowledge that is available to all of us, there is no way a physician or nurse or even an office professional can keep current on all the latest, proven thinking. If artificial intelligence can be used to offer up the best thinking at any given moment, then we will be able to care for and treat members more accurately, more effectively, and faster.

The personal touch is at the very heart of healthcare, and while AI and robotics may support the care team, it will never replace the need for the human touch. We will always need caring people to serve individuals at their most vulnerable moments.

On stage at Dreamforce, you said that “the idea that we’ve defined all jobs on earth is something we don’t believe. Technology will allow us to free up, to think about new roles and new jobs in the future.” What do you think those new jobs will look like?

How are you working to prepare your workforce for the future at Kaiser Permanente?

In this fast-changing world, standing still is not an option. With every innovation, new technology, and disruptive idea, we create new jobs. At Kaiser Permanente, we often are helping change regulations, because we have proven that with technology, we provide faster and more accurate and efficient care. But each of these innovations requires people who understand, interpret, and know how to execute using these technologies. For example, we have teams of primary and specialty care physicians in our member contact centers who are available to help people with their healthcare needs through a phone call.

After understanding that many of our members communicate via text message, we have a team of physicians in Colorado who are able to answer member health concerns via text as well as expedite their care to a medical office or emergency room if needed. As we continue to continuously improve, we will need to look at how jobs evolve. The employees and physicians at Kaiser Permanente are already looking at the future of care delivery and the future of medicine. These massive changes will create new opportunities as jobs evolve to meet consumer demands for living healthy lives in the future.

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