How Kaiser Innovates

on June 30, 2011
SMARTS™ Data-Powered Decision Management Platform

A little while ago, I enjoyed reading the trip reports that both Jim Sinur ( and Elise Olding ( published on the Gartner blog about innovation at Kaiser Permanente.  Institutionalizing innovation?  This is just the kind of thing that picks my interest.  I could not pass on the opportunity to do that tour as well.  I signed Carlos and I up for a visit of the Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center.

I also recommend the tour ( if you happen to be in California but plan ahead as they fill up very quickly.  Our guide was very knowledgeable as well and could give us some “techie” nuggets knowing we were on the IT side.  They combine 3 main aspects: Facilities, Patient Care and IT.  So you could request a guide with any of those specialties.  Isn’t that cool?

Jim described the process innovation that Kaiser implemented very successfully to reduce drug administration errors.  It is so ridiculously simple it is impressive.  It is often the case that the best solutions are actually very simple.  It was interesting that the environment allowed them to think outside the box and focus on the key issues to address.  With the in-situ brainstorming involving all stakeholders, they have been able to come up with an innovative solution to the problem and to test it.  They literally tested out several sashes once they settled on the idea.

I was intrigued by their robotic initiatives.  Having robots deliver bedding throughout the hospital feels a like Start-Trek-ish and cool.  The future is being tested over there though.  They finish the tour with the room of the future.  The trend to simplification continues there of course, bringing tablet-like devices at reach in replacement for many devices they use today.  With the Cloud and all the modern technology, it becomes less of a stretch to consider digital information exchange versus seamlessly from iPad to television to support interactive discussions between the healthcare provider and the patient.  Information will have to flow seamlessly to the home too, for better support and integration of wellness programs that lower “Back to the ER” statistics.

We only talked about Gamification in the context of nurse training, to simulate birth delivery, but you can tell from their website that Gamification is one important focus they experiment with.

My personal take-away was the impressive results they achieved by testing out their new processes or solutions in “reality”.  They have rooms that are designed exactly as real hospital rooms (although they felt much bigger than the room I was in for my son’s delivery).  They try, try and try again.  They iterate in the context of a real-life situation.  They observe; they measure; they assess.  With this use-case-driven approach, they have been able to correct or abandon ideas that looked perfect on paper — they call them their “successful failures”.  It saved them millions of dollars or more.  Our guide pointed out to a few architecture issues that may have been overlooked without the simulation.

That is an interesting parallel with the use-case-driven approach we are evangelizing.  In Decision Management, eliciting and refining business rules in the context of data leads to similar outcomes:

  • Detection of “successful failures”: decisioning that sounds good on paper but that leads to poor business results
  • Collaborative refinement: talking in the abstract can lead to misunderstanding and misalignment; when the discussion is concrete about a specific case, stakeholders can be more precise on their comments and contributions, accelerating the path to the “best” solution

Learn more about Decision Management and Sparkling Logic’s SMARTS™ Data-Powered Decision Manager

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Sparkling Logic Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based company dedicated to helping organizations automate and optimize key decisions in daily business operations and customer interactions in a low-code, no-code environment. Our core product, SMARTS™ Data-Powered Decision Manager, is an all-in-one decision management platform designed for business analysts to quickly automate and continuously optimize complex operational decisions. Learn more by requesting a live demo or free trial today.