Kaiser replaces chief of digital records project

From the Los Angeles Times:

Kaiser replaces chief of digital records project — An outsider will take over the troubled $4-billion effort from Bruce Turkstra.

By Daniel Costello, Times Staff Writer

The senior executive overseeing Kaiser Permanente’s massive effort to digitize its members’ medical records is being replaced, the company said Monday, the latest sign of turmoil for the $4-billion project, one of the nation’s largest.

The departure of Bruce Turkstra, interim chief information officer, comes just four months after he was tapped to replace the health maintenance organization’s previous CIO, J. Clifford Dodd.

The announcement is yet another jolt for the nation’s largest nonprofit HMO, whose high-profile electronic medical records project has repeatedly been hailed as a possible national model.

With evidence suggesting that digitized record keeping can lower health costs and save lives, President Bush is pushing for every American to have a digital medical record by 2014. About 90% of the healthcare industry still operates with paper records.

But over the last year, Kaiser’s new digital system has faced growing problems as it has been expanded into more locations.

Turkstra has directly overseen the creation and rollout of the project, called Health Connect, since its inception in 2003. Kaiser’s website Monday referred to him as the program’s information technology architect.

Troubles with the effort, which may be endangering patient safety, were detailed by the Los Angeles Times two weeks ago. Oakland-based Kaiser says no patients have been harmed and the technical problems have been solved.

Kaiser said its new technology chief would be Philip Fasano, who oversaw technology departments at Deutsche Bank Group and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

In a statement, Kaiser Chief Executive George Halvorson said he valued Turkstra’s “contributions throughout the KP Health Connect project.”

A Kaiser spokeswoman said Halvorson decided to hire an outside candidate rather than make Turkstra a permanent chief information officer, a move that was widely expected when he was given the interim job in November.

Turkstra, who wasn’t available for comment, is staying on at least through Fasano’s transition, Kaiser said. Company executives said the change was not related to recent problems with Health Connect.

In The Times’ report, documents and interviews with current and former Kaiser employees showed the effort had encountered repeated technical problems, leading to potentially dangerous incidents such as patients listed in the wrong beds.

At times, doctors and medical staff haven’t had access to crucial patient information, and system outages have led to delays in emergency room care, the documents show.

Other problems have included malfunctioning bedside scanners meant to ensure that patients receive the correct medication, according to Kaiser staff.

Internal Kaiser “Availability Trend” reports documenting the reliability of Health Connect over nine months last year found the system was available 88% of the time some days and less than 80% in certain locations. That rate is considered very low for the healthcare industry, which increasingly is aiming for systems with availability in the “multiple nines,” or 99.99%, because of patient safety risks that can arise during system outages.

Concerns about Kaiser’s effort recently led the California Department of Managed Health Care to request information about the project, a first step before a possible formal investigation.

Experts say the glitches are worrisome and illustrate the difficulties healthcare providers may encounter as they try to implement complex computerized medical systems.

“We all have a lot more work to do before we can expect to see all the benefits and rewards electronic medical records can bring,” said David Brailer, a former national health information technology coordinator who serves as a health technology advisor for the Bush administration. Brailer didn’t comment on Kaiser’s plan specifically because he was not sufficiently familiar with the project.

Kaiser said it expected Health Connect to be fully rolled out in two years.


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8 comments to Kaiser replaces chief of digital records project

  • Anonymous

    And he hails from Governmentland USA – McLean, Va/Washington DC. If nothing else, it will make Kaiser look good because it will appear as though Kaiser knows what they are doing and with Kaiser, appearances ARE everything.

    I wonder if he has ANY inkling what he is getting himself into.

  • George Hampton

    It takes a certain kind to fit in at Kaiser. I hear Fasano hasn’t worked in three years. Sounds like he could be going from bad to worse?

  • Admin

    He’s probably an old drinking buddy of Halvorson’s.

  • Martha P.

    No Doubt!!!

  • anonymous

    Bruce is finally going down!! yeah…First it was the Cliff Notes guy (cliff Dodd), and now the mighty Robert the Bruce. The king is finally overthrown… I was there when he was hired at Oakland’s KP HQ on 10th floor. All the people were talking about how KP has hired a former ENRON executive. rumors turned out to be true. How could a former enron official be hired by a healthcare company!!! But this is kaiser, and no matter what your background is , if you know someone powerfull you are IN!! Anywhooo, the first thing he did was to complain how small his office was!! talk about ego… they changed his office to a conference room size mansion, and then they rented the top floor of the 1800 Harrison building to accomodate him and his buddies. To make a long story short, the guy acted as if he owned the place… for over 3 years he has costed KPIT over half a billion dollars in overcharges, gross mistakes, and overspending on Deloitte worthless consultants. Leave it to KP and the new guy will probably outdo the mighty Bruce, and waste even more resources on this boondoggle.

  • Anonymous

    We must all make sure that Mr. Fasano gets copies of all the articles and postings about Health Connect.

  • annonymous

    Since heads are rolling at KPIT, perhaps we can expect the KING (aka Halverson) will get to see the gallows (or guillotine) very soon – at least we can hope and pray. The same thing happened when CIS project crashed and burned in 2003, the mighty and powerful (i.e. the KPIT elite) paid dearly for their arrogance. Although some of the drones were hired back very quickly, due to a brain drain that was not to last long, and the vacuum was filled quickly by the Deloitte legions of young and pretty but cocky “analysts”. Millions were paid out to the consulting gods, and many sacrifices took place at the alter, but to no avail. The EPIC gods wanted even more minions to labor at the salt mines (i.e. KPIT cubefarms), hence over hiring and chaos with no talented managers in sight, to take the bull by the horn, subsequently a great deal of Bullshit was generated, and documented in the annals of StealthConnect. This fiasco was direct results of the Halverson hubris.

    Lets storm the Bastille (1800 Harrison Building), and drag out the idiots… and have a fun and jovial hangings at the Snow Park accross the street??!!! ha… Where is Robespiere when we need him?

  • [...] the online medical records system internal to Kaiser. This system is somewhat legendary, and not always for good reasons. Reported to cost upwards of 4 billion dollars, KP Connect is extraordinarily ambitious, combining [...]

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