Full Nelson: Healthcare Innovation: Kaiser's Garfield Center - InformationWeek

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Full Nelson: Healthcare Innovation: Kaiser's Garfield Center

Provider's lab offers an exciting peek into the technological future of patient care.

Physicians in Hawaii are already using the Tandberg high-end videoconference system, allowing physicians to consult one another, offering translation or interpretation of chart results, for example. In real time.

Another nifty convenience is the Garfield Center's Robot. Don't worry, he won't be operating. Mostly, this programmable device, about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator, brings equipment (food, linen carts, lunch tray carts -- up to 500 pounds) into rooms or to nurses. The one we saw had programmed destinations and methodologically went about its tasks, careful not to bump into people or other objects (no matter how hard we tried to get in its way). There are 17 robots being piloted in Southern California, Kaiser told us.

Garfield also makes use of mobile technology (or, as Kaiser calls it: "mobile point of care"). Mobile care happens through smartphones or tablets, each with a camera so a care professional can take a picture of a wound or rash (yeah, don't go there). Devices also come with barcode scanners for tracking the dispensing of medication. The tablets are Panasonic ToughBooks, ruggedized devices originally intended for military use, among other applications.

Chai says the center is always on the lookout for new mobile apps, like the iPhone AirStrip, which lets doctors get real-time vital signs on the run.

The future for these mobile devices looks bright, especially since doctors and nurses would prefer to carry or cart less equipment around the hospital. In other words, devices like iPhones can be a point of technology convergence.

Much of this technology can also let patients get treatment and advice from the comfort of home. Indeed, the folks at the Garfield Center think that by 2015, the home will become the hub of care. After that comes "health unbound" (on the go, hiking, etc), using phones and wrist watch technology (for example, using the video camera you could have a live videoconference with a physician about a poisonous rash or a snake bite, its danger, and its treatment).

The Garfield Center sometimes experiments with far-out concepts. One of those is the iRobot, which is one of those automatic, self-driven vacuums (you know it as the Roomba). This particular version comes with a camera on top and remote control. Officials say they aren't quite sure what to do with it yet.

Kaiser is also pushing self care and education. The Intel Health Guide, which looks a little like game console, collects personal health information in the home. Patients interact with this multi-lingual, multimedia device, answering questions. The Health Guide aggregates all types of information -- what a patient answers, external temperature, food consumption, blood pressure, and so on. The output is displayed on a dashboard that can tell professional care givers whether a patient is at short- or long-term medical risk.

The Garfield Center works with its partners, employees, and customers to build the experience. On the technology side, it talks to R&D groups and labs, with a mission of looking out 10 to 15 years. It doesn't put out RFPs, but RFIs (requests for innovation!). It brings in physicians and nurses to use the facility and provide feedback, not just on the usefulness of the technology but on how it works into a hospital workflow. It also brings in focus groups to look at the center (and its technology) from a patient point of view.

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