Kaiser Permanente Hires Hundreds of Physicians for East Coast Clinics

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente is spending at least $500 million and hiring hundreds of physicians to expand its reach to the East Coast, according to a Nashville Business Journal report.

The non-profit’s mid-Atlantic division is building four clinics in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Kaiser is purchasing “prominent real estate” and investing in high-end equipment, according to the report. Permanente Medical Group, Kaiser’s staff physician practice, has hired 200 physicians in the D.C. area.

Marilyn Kawamura, CEO of Kaiser’s mid-Atlantic region, previously told the Nashville Business Journal the goal “is to bring the way we really operate and serve our members in California to the mid-Atlantic region,” according to a Nov. 2010 report.

Kaiser ensuring patients take the drugs they’re supposed to.

Half of patients in the developed world don’t properly take their drugs for chronic conditions.

The additional costs for treating diseases that progress unchecked run into the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. One study estimates nearly 90,000 people die prematurely in the U.S. each year because of poor adherence to high-blood-pressure treatment alone.

So how do you get people to take their medicine? There isn’t one answer, because there isn’t one reason people aren’t sticking to their regimens. Cost, forgetfulness, side effects and doubts about effectiveness can all be factors, among others. And for many people the health-care system isn’t designed to monitor or encourage adherence to drug prescriptions.

Providers like Group Health and Kaiser Permanente, a large managed-care consortium based in Oakland, Calif., can track refills because they manage all aspects of their patients’ care, so all information for each of their patients is collected in one easy-to-access electronic record. Alec Does, a family-medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Anaheim Hills, says that when he shows patients records indicating they haven’t been consistently filling their prescriptions, “90% of the time, they’ll open up” and start talking about any issues they’re having.

But most people don’t get their care from such comprehensive providers, so their doctors rarely have access to their pharmacy records.

The first step is to engage the patient with a simple, open-ended question, says Elizabeth Oyekan, area pharmacy director at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center: What’s getting in the way of picking up your medications?

“That will give you some concrete information, and then you target the solution to the individual patient,” she says. Kaiser has created a set of online tutorials to help doctors and others engage more effectively with patients who are skipping their medications.

If a patient is worried about side effects, a health-care provider might offer a substitute for the medication, or a lower dose. For the forgetful, it could be as easy as using a simple pillbox, or maybe something more technologically advanced, such as text-message reminders or souped-up pillboxes with audio or visual alerts.

If money is the problem, the solution may be generic substitutes, a mail-order program (which not only provides drugs at a lower cost but also helps those who have trouble getting to a pharmacy), or a drug company’s assistance program.

Kaiser earns four stars in HMO care

Most of the state’s largest HMOs scored well in overall quality care and customer satisfaction, but even the highest scorers in the 2011 Health Care Quality Report Card had some shortfalls.

The report released Thursday [March 10, 2011] by the state Office of the Patient Advocate evaluates California’s nine largest health maintenance organizations, which serve more than 12 million enrollees and more than 225 medical groups statewide.

For a third straight year, Kaiser Permanente is the only health plan in California to earn a maximum four-star rating for overall quality of care, based on meeting national standards. Both Kaiser’s Northern California and Southern California HMOs received four stars, designating “excellent.”

“Of the 37 clinical measures in this report card, Kaiser Permanente has the top score in 29 of them,” said Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of the Permanente Medical Group.

“… These ratings provide further confirmation that our physicians, nurses and staff members are consistently delivering high quality care to our patients,” said Gregory Adams, president of Kaiser Permanente Health Plan/Hospitals Inc., in Northern California.

Six other HMOs received three stars, designating “good.” They are Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, CIGNA, Health Net of California, PacifiCare of California and Western Health Advantage.

Aetna Health of California Inc. received two stars, designating “fair.”

However, results were decidedly mixed in specific segments. For example, Kaiser Permanente Northern California received only one star, or “poor,” in plan service, based on member ratings compared with plans nationwide.

Aetna, in contrast, received three stars in plan service, tying Western Health Advantage for the top rating.

Seven of the nine HMOs rated poor on the report card’s “getting care easily” category. Kaiser Permanente Northern California and Western Health Advantage rated fair.

“Not all health plans provide the same quality of care on different measures,” said OPA Director Sandra Perez. “It’s imperative that health care consumers know that quality matters and, as the report card clearly shows, quality varies.”

OPA has released a report card for the past 10 years, evaluating a wide range of health care practices. It also evaluates “areas in need of improvement.”

This year, OPA noted that its previously published concerns over HMOs administrating asthma medication have been addressed: “This year’s report card shows that the performance of all HMOs prescribing the right asthma medications to control asthma in children, adolescents and adults ranges from 90 to 98 percent.”

OPA said California HMOs also “do well in testing levels of blood sugar and cholesterol among patients with diabetes.”

Thursday’s report says HMOs need to improve on a newly added segment – checking children and adults at risk for obesity and weight-related health problems.

The report card says most children (62 percent) and 45 percent of adults did not have their body mass index checked when visiting the doctor. OPA noted that the test is a simple way to gauge if a person’s weight may lead to serious health problems.

Kaiser nurses give Kaiser Permanente a new deadline: April 19th.

1,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente’s premier Southern California hospital have likewise stepped into the breach to stave off attacks on themselves and their patients. Kaiser, the nation’s biggest HMO, is known nationally as one of the most labor-friendly employers in existence. Recently, however, like the auto manufacturers of three decades ago, Kaiser has changed its attitude toward its unionized workforce, pushing its workers to pay more for their health benefits, chiseling away at their retirement benefits, and withholding scheduled raises and benefits from workers to retaliate against their union activity.

If the nurses at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center had reverted to form for today’s labor movement, they would have negotiated away the worst of the cutbacks, and swallowed the rest of it like a bitter pill. But two weeks ago, these workers stepped up and did what unions do less and less of these days: They went on strike. RNs in Los Angeles walked the picket line demanding safe staffing ratios at the same time that workers in Madison, Wisconsin were refusing to vacate the Capitol building. Nurses waved picket signs expressing solidarity with their counterparts in Wisconsin, forming a united front separated by a mere 2,000 miles. Last week, these nurses gave their employer a new deadline of April 19th. If they’re not on their way to a contract settlement by that date, the nurses on the union’s bargaining committee will recommend to their co-workers that they go on strike again.

Health care coverage lost by 9,000,000

Health care coverage was lost by an estimated nine million working-age adults over the last two years due to unemployment, says a U.S. health  insurance study.

The Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey found that 43 million adults under the age of 65 who had lost a job or whose spouse had lost a job could not easily find affordable health care.

Reporting on the study, UPI says that only 25 percent of those who lost their insurance through an employer were able to find new coverage, while 14 percent used COBRA to continue their job-based coverage.

For those who lost their jobs, individual health insurance was simply not a viable option. Of those studied, 71 percent had difficulty finding a plan that suited their needs, was affordable, or continued to offer coverage despite pre-existing conditions.

“The silver lining is that the Affordable Care Act has already begun to bring relief to families and once the new law is fully implemented, we can be confident that no future recession will have the power to strip so many Americans of their health security,” said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, in a statement.

The study, conducted over the phone, surveyed 4005 adults and had a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points.

According to UPI, “An estimated 52 million U.S. adults were uninsured at some point during 2010, up from 38 million in 2001.”

Kaiser top rated health plan

Most of the state’s largest HMOs scored well in overall quality care and customer satisfaction, but even the highest scorers in the annual Health Care Quality Report Card had some shortfalls.

The annual report released today by the state-run Office of the Patient Advocate evaluates California’s nine largest health maintenance organizations, which serve some 12 million enrollees, and more than 200 medical groups statewide.

For a third straight year, Kaiser Permanente is the only health plan in California to earn a maximum four-star rating for overall quality of care, based on meeting national standards. Both Kaiser’s Northern California and Southern California HMOs received four stars, designating “excellent.”

Six other HMOs received three stars, designating “good.” They are Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, CIGNA, Health Net of California, PacifiCare of California and Western Health Advantage.

Aetna Health of California Inc. received two stars, designating “fair.”

However, results were decidedly mixed in specific segments.

For example, Kaiser Permanente Northern California received only one star, or “poor,” in plan service, based on member ratings compared with plans nationwide.

Aetna, in contrast, received three stars in the plan service segment.

Kaiser Permanente Ranked No. 1 Health Insurance Provider in Customer Loyalty

Kaiser Permanente received the highest customer loyalty ranking in the health insurance sector, based on the Satmetrix 2011 Net Promoter® industry rankings. A new addition to this year’s benchmarks, Kaiser Permanente received a Net Promoter Score, or NPS® of 28 percent, more than 30 points higher than the industry average of negative 5 percent.

“Kaiser Permanente stood out as the leader in customer loyalty among eight health insurance providers profiled in the benchmark study,” said John Abraham, general manager of Net Promoter programs at Satmetrix. “The company’s managed care model, which combines health insurance with provision of care, set it apart from traditional health insurance companies. Customers mentioned personalized service, convenience and high-quality end-to-end health care as key reasons they would recommend the company.”

“We are very pleased to know that our focus on quality care, customer service and convenience is being recognized by consumers across the country. Kaiser Permanente has made a significant effort to put our patients and members at the center of all we do,” said Arthur M. Southam, MD, executive vice president, Health Plan Operations, for Kaiser Permanente. “Our unique integrated care delivery model, supported by ground-breaking health information technology, enables us to coordinate a member’s care efficiently and effectively.”

Kaiser Permanente leads nationally in electronic health records.

Kaiser Permanente has been a leader nationally in electronic health records. Kaiser spent more than $4 billion over more than a decade to develop its HealthConnect  system that tracks more than 8.6 million members in nine states. The system, completed last year, is the largest civilian electronic health record system in the world.

Oncologist Dr. Jenny Devitt, HealthConnect leader for San Diego, called the system “mind-boggling.”

“It’s totally transformed what we do,” she said. Devitt said that in addition to allowing care providers throughout the Kaiser system to share patient data, a popular feature allows doctors and patients to e-mail through a secure website.

“It takes me more time (during the workday) but maybe if I answer their questions, they won’t get sick and end up in the hospital or coming in for an appointment,” she said. “In the long run, it may save me time and the patients really like it. They like it a lot.”

Kaiser Permanente at San Diego Career Fair

If you are interested in a job with Kaiser:

Diverse Careers announced the San Diego Career Fair on Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel San Diego/Mission Valley located at 7450 Hazard Center Dr., San Diego, Calif.

According to a release, exhibitors include Aflac, Independent Capital Management, Kaiser Permanente, New York Life Insurance Company, Prudential Financial, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and Verizon Wireless.

Job seekers and employers are encouraged to participate. This recruiting event is open to everyone and is free to job seekers. Job seekers may also search jobs and post their resume prior to the event.

Diverse Careers is a job board website and career fair management company located in Southern California.

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Just keep in mind, some companies attend job fairs as a matter of policy with no interest in hiring.

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States Awarded Over $35 Million in Charitable Contributions in 2010

Funding Focused on Scholarship Programs, Access to Healthy Foods, and Providing Access to Health Care to the Uninsured

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, the area’s largest not-for-profit health plan and care provider, announced today that its 2010 charitable contributions topped $35 million.  Approximately $25 million was used for direct medical care and insurance coverage for uninsured and underserved residents of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and another $10 million in grants, donations, and sponsorships went to organizations that support the health of the region.  For a list of Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic State’s key contributions for 2010, please visit www.kp.org/newscenter.

“Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to proactively helping people get and stay healthy,” said Maritha Gay, senior director of external affairs for Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States.  ”Our efforts take wellness initiatives beyond the doctor’s office, bringing communities together so that everyone has the resources they need to get well and thrive.”

The grants and donations focused on expanding access to health care services for underserved and uninsured individuals throughout the region, supporting the education of future generations of health care professionals, and increasing access to fresh, nutritious food.  Approximately 120 organizations received funding in 2010.

“At Kaiser Permanente, we are committed to working with our community partners to invest in long-term, sustainable improvements to health and behavior throughout the region,” said Carrie Harris-Muller, chief administrative officer for Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States.  ”The number of large grants we awarded in 2010 speaks to that commitment and to our belief that many of our local nonprofits are implementing strong programs that, over time, can indeed contribute to making total health a reality for everyone.”

Additional information about Kaiser Permanente’s Community Benefit programs can be found in the 2009 Community Benefit Annual Report at www.kp.org/communitybenefit/annualreport2009.

About Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States is a total health organization composed of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., and the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, P.C., an independent medical group that features approximately 1,000 physicians who provide or arrange care for patients throughout the area.

SOURCE Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States