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Q&A: Kaiser Permanente's Next CEO Talks Strategy

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, November 6, 2012

HLM: Since you're so far along with electronic health records, can you talk how to avoid harmful effects that an error in an electronic health record system can have? The Institute of Medicine recently elaborated on so-called 'cut and paste' errors as just one example.

BT: All I can tell you, which is evident of what we see in our program and what we report to our quality committee on a regular basis, the evidence we see is that our patients are safer. We can demonstrate that and we have a much better understanding of the enormous task of coordinating a lot of different things.

And the centerpiece of that is the health information. The quality of our information is such now that because we're a fully integrated system, the pieces talk to each other. So the pharmacy is a part of the record, so we know and we can cross track prescriptions, and as a result we've had a major decline in any kind of medication error.

We're able to track our patients better and give them coordinated care after they get out of the hospital. It's a learning curve for any organization that gets into the electronic health record, but we're seeing the opposite in terms of the benefit that it's providing to our leaders and healthcare providers in making quality decisions based on good information.

HLM: How is your life going to change with this new job?

BT: I suspect I'll have a little more to do. I've been very fortunate to have increasing responsibilities inside and outside of Kaiser Permanente. I think that, it's going to require me, after we get through the transition that I'm continuing to understand the industry and the country and where we're going and the role we're going to play. And helping to lead and guide healthcare transformation in this country. 

I will continue to contribute inside and outside the organization. Since Kaiser Permanente plays a role in the entire industry, my focus will be external and internal, whereas as president, my focus was predominantly internal, with some external.

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