Hank Spring 2014

From the Desk of Henrietta: O Is for Ostrich

Henrietta, the resident columnist for the LMP's quarterly magazine Hank, urges KP employees to to explore new ways of doing their work.

Take, if you will, the humble cell phone.

Oh wait. The cell phone may be ubiquitous, but it’s far from humble. Today’s smarty-pants phones have more power than the computers on the Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977 and 36 years later departed our solar system. Its three computers can process about 8,000 instructions per second. A smartphone swallows more than 14 billion.

The articles in this issue of Hank—articles about how technology is transforming care delivery and about how individuals and Kaiser Permanente are meeting the challenges that presents—would have overwhelmed the Voyager computers’ memory.

For communicating across distances, the string with two tin cans is humble. Even the rotary phone, patented in 1892, seems modest in comparison with today’s devices, which are used more for all manner of modern information sharing than for something as quaint as talking to another human being.

A rapid tech-based transformation, akin to the makeover of the old-fashioned phone, is already sweeping through care delivery. It’s hard to fathom the many ways technology will allow us to decentralize the delivery of health care while improving our connection with our patients and members. The changes will require new skills.

And starting today, the mindset we bring to the workplace is just as important as our skills. Without a willingness to explore new ways of doing our work, we are (to mix a metaphor) like an ostrich dialing the operator for help on a rotary phone, patiently waiting the long seconds for the 0 to return to its starting place while the future creeps up from behind. We’ll never know what got us.

Be bold. Be willing to go where no one has gone before.

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