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Project allows patients to go online to request medical advice, appointments and prescriptions
Virtual operating rooms? Internet inoculations? Online office visits? Not yet. But Kaiser Permanente has taken some bold steps to enhance the way its internet-savvy members can access its services and information.
Kaiser has seen the future of medicine and it is interactive. The age of the passive patient who doesn't ask questions and sees the doctor only for shots and operations may be coming to an end. A great deal of medical care involves providing information.
In recent years Kaiser has invested heavily in a comprehensive computer-based patient record system at an estimated cost of $28 million, allowing doctors and nurses to access and enter patient information online.
Now, it is turning to the patient side of the equation. Under a new pilot program, Kaiser patients can go online for a variety of health care needs. Kaiser hopes the project will result in better-informed patients. The HMO is also betting that its tightly integrated medical and insurance computer network will give it an edge over competing HMOs.
Five-thousand households in Kaiser's Northwest region are now participating in a three-month-long pilot project, Kaiser Permanente Online, which lets members access several Kaiser features using the internet.
"KP Online is really just the beginning of a project we're calling KP Direct," says Dr. Homer Chin, assistant regional medical director for clinical information systems. "The idea is to allow the patient to access us directly at any time at their convenience."
For instance, the pilot project allows members to contact advice nurses and receive responses via e-mail, …