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The Garfield Innovation Center

A Legacy of Innovation Lives On

In sleepy San Leandro, California, a non-descript warehouse building is ground zero for innovative health care designs that are changing care delivery around the world. Named after an innovator who was ahead of his time in many ways, the Garfield Center is a place where the people of Kaiser Permanente – members, physicians, staff and experts – envision the future of health and are empowered to create it.

Dr. Sidney Garfield (1906-1984) may be most well-known as the founding physician of the health care system we now call Kaiser Permanente. What many don’t know is that he was a passionate innovator of architecture and hospital design, care delivery, technology and the computerization of health care, and the concept of total health. His spirit of curiosity and drive to improve systems are reflected in the mission, projects, and future-minded vision of the Garfield Center today.

Garfield Center

A Center for Cross-Functional Innovation

Jennifer Liebermann
Jennifer Liebermann was instrumental in founding the Garfield Center and has served as Director since its creation in 2005.

The Garfield Center was given the green light in 2005. Naming the Center after Dr. Garfield was a natural choice since, as Jennifer Liebermann (the Center’s founding director) said, “Our mission and work scope continue his legacy of innovation in the name of health care improvement.”

Covering 37,000 square feet, the Garfield Center is a labyrinth of mocked-up rooms (some complete with equipment and furnishings, others simply of moveable plywood walls), wandering robot prototypes, walls of interactive screens, and futuristic simulation environments. Installations include a surgical suite, labor and delivery area, patient home, hospital ward, consulting room, and nurse workstations.

The Center is a place where the introduction of technology into the workplace can be studied in a simulated, safe environment away from the patient. Front line teams are able to investigate the intersections of space, technology and workflow and find ways to align them to improve care. Using tests, prototyping, and simulations as near to real world conditions as possible, as well as systematic input from the clinicians, care teams and patients who would actually use the space, technologies and new designs can be tested in a hands-on, mocked-up environment before being implemented.

Imagining the Future of Health Care

Serene Lau
Serene Lau, Innovation Storyteller, works to creatively answer the question, “What happens inside KP’s Innovation Center?”

In the last decade, the Garfield Center has tested, mocked up and simulated hundreds of projects. As should happen with good innovation testing, many have failed, but a good number have grown legs, are now in practice, and are improving health care both within Kaiser Permanente and at large.

The Garfield Center is one of several Kaiser Permanente innovation entities, serving a unique role as the physical place where Kaiser Permanente employees and groups can go to “greenhouse” new ideas tangibly. In large organizations, and especially within health care, it’s easy to dismiss new ideas before they’re able to be tested – the Center is a safe place to nurture innovations, test them, and give them the space and time to play out.

In ten years, the Garfield Center has evolved from a testing lab to a place that provokes people to think ahead. Serene Lau, innovation storyteller, said, “I lead a lot of tours at the Center, and I always love seeing peoples’ minds open up to the possibilities of the future. Sometimes it takes being in a physical space where innovations are tangibly explored to really drive out-of-box thinking.”

Our goal at the Garfield Center, and at Kaiser Permanente as a whole, is to help launch health care innovations that benefit members, patients, and care teams – and ideally, ones that impact health care on a larger scale. If you want to help us drive innovations that actually make a difference for others, search our open positions today.

To read the complete article and learn more about The Garfield Center, visit our history blog.

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