I walked into the hospital of the future, and was greeted by a drug delivering robot.
For now, it's a prototype, so all drugs stayed on the shelf. But think about it: A patient needs something, the doctor or nurse is busy, no problem... just send the delivery 'bot. It's all part of why Kaiser Permanente is throwing tons of technology at a longtime problem: how can we make healthcare easier, and more convenient?
The future "hospital" is actually a gigantic warehouse in San Leandro where Kaiser is testing everything from facial recognition for doctors, to portable laser keyboards that let you enter data anywhere, to easier ways to store diaper bags when you bring your kids in for checkups. It's vaguely reminiscent of an actual hospital, if an actual hospital were painted by Picasso, putting hallways, computers, and giant TV screens randomly around big rooms full of comfy sofas, to see what works best in what place.
Full disclosure here: I was born in Oakland's Kaiser Hospital, but this was long before drug delivering robots and laser keyboards, and I currently have no relationship to the health plan.
But back to the technology, some of which is already in place. In Santa Clara, we met up with Dr. Todd Dray, who showed us how Kaiser members can put all of their health care data into a tiny digital file. That's right, for Dr. Dray, it's nothin' but a USB thing. A password-protected USB key you can take with you when you travel, so any doctor anywhere can plug in, and find out your allergies, recent X-Rays, and full medical history. Look for this to make parents of small children especially glad to have a little technology in their lives.
From Intel chips, to Cisco's Telepresence conferencing hardware, Silicon Valley technology is all over Kaiser's warehouse. Some of what's in there will undoubtedly find its way into future hospitals. Today, Kaiser members can pay five bucks to get their own private USB file. Your whole healthcare history, told in a very small package.