Kaiser Permanente nearing launch of nationwide info exchange

Kaiser Permanente has implemented a secure health information exchange that is going to be expanded nationwide.  Kaiser Permanente and VA engaged in first Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) production exchange for treatment purposes on December 17th, 2009 in San Diego, CA.

Kaiser Permanente is nearing the launch of a nationwide information exchange, giving its 9 million members an opportunity to have their medical records shared over the Internet with public- and private-sector partners.  Kaiser’s membership includes about 500,000 veterans, who receive care at Kaiser facilities and Veterans Affairs Department hospitals.

The software that allows providers to view and extract medical record data uses the standards and specifications set by HHS. The data is encrypted, and patients have to give their consent before their health information is shared.

Kaiser Permanente adds 90,000 insureds to health plan

Details in the new health care law (aka Obamacare) meant to add people to insurance rolls appear to be working for Kaiser Permanente who added 90,000 insureds to their membership.  In the Affordable Care Act, young adults who are not full-time students can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26.

Adding young people to the number of insured customers is a big benefit to everyone else, because young people do not get sick as often or for as long a period as older customers. So insurance companies made record profits. Insurance regulators could use those record profits to deny rate hikes.

2,000 Kaiser Workers Strike

2,000 employees at Kaiser Permanente walked off Wednesday in a 1 day strike because of  nurse-to- patient ratios and health care benefits.  The strike was organized by the National Union of Health care Workers and centered around Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center plus Kaiser’s South Bay Medical Center.

There was a rescheduling of some appointments  but Kaiser had sufficient employees to handle day appointments and emergencies.

Kaiser is negotiating with three bargaining units of the union that represents registered nurses, social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists, audiologists, health educators and dieticians throughout Southern California.

One of the issues workers are asking for solutions to is that patients must wait five to six weeks for a mental health appointment, and are limited to 30 minutes.  Mental health specialists want patients to get more counseling.  Patients should not have to wait 4-6 weeks for an appointment.


Former Kaiser Doctor loses license for sexual battery

An Anaheim Hills doctor accused of sexually molesting patients during exams was stripped of his medical license Friday.

The California Medical Board revoked the license of Dr. David Hung Do, 40, after five female Kaiser Permanente patients alleged that he examined them inappropriately between 2006 and 2008.

In September, he pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual battery. A pretrial hearing is set for May 3, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office.

Medical board documents conclude that Do engaged in sexual misconduct with three of the patients.

In one case, a woman came to see him for a prescription for a seasickness patch. Do touched her breast and put his bare hand down her pants, touching her genitals. She testified at a medical board hearing that she was too shocked too say anything. Do then wrote her the prescription. The patient reported the incident to Kaiser.

He was terminated from Kaiser and later arrested by police.

In deciding to revoke his license, administrative law judge James Ahler described Do as a sexual predator.

Do’s attorney, John Barnett, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

S&P rates Kaiser Permanente, CA 2011 bonds ‘A+/A-1′

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services assigned its ‘A+/A-1′ rating to the $204.5 million series 2011A, 2011B, 2011C, and 2011D bonds, issued by the California Health Facilities Financing Authority on behalf of Kaiser Permanente (Kaiser). At the same time, we affirmed our ‘A+/A-1′, ‘A+’, and ‘A-1′ ratings on Kaiser’s outstanding bonds (various issues). The outlook on all long-term ratings is stable. Management is considering a private placement for the 2011A, 2011B, 2011C, and 2011D series, which will be floating-rate notes; management reports that there are no cross-default provisions and no acceleration events. Kaiser is also planning to convert its 2002E bonds to variable-rate demand obligations backed by self-liquidity, its 2004I bonds to commercial paper, and its 2009E-1 and 2009E-2 bonds to short-term put bonds.

“The ‘A+’ long-term rating reflects our view of Kaiser’s solid and well-established market position, sound revenue increases, and ability to contain costs through its care management model and information technology,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Geraldine Poon. “The ‘A-1′ short-term rating reflects our view of the ample liquidity and sufficiency of the assets available to support the full and timely purchase of any bonds tendered upon the event of a failed remarketing.”

The stable outlook reflects our view of Kaiser’s sound business position, relatively stable operating performance, and sound liquidity. We consider Kaiser’s credit fundamentals solid, and we expect consistent operating performance going forward. The outlook assumes that Kaiser will be able to fund its significant capital program from cash flow. The outlook also assumes maintenance of Kaiser’s solid market position, particularly in its core HMO market, as well as growth in new product offerings. We continue to monitor the system’s unfunded pension liability.

Pharmacists Could Strike At Kaiser Permanente

Southern California Kaiser Permanente pharmacists, represented by the Guild For Professional Pharmacists, have notified Kaiser Permanente of the Guild’s intention to strike, following a breakdown in contract negotiations.

The strike would affect over 100 pharmacies across southern California including several in the Coachella Valley. The strike would stop work on Thurday and Friday April 21st and 22nd.

One of the goals of the strike is to prove how important pharmacists are to the hospital. “Oh, very, very important,” said Kaiser member James Petersen. “In this environment here where we have a lot of seniors, everybody needs their pharmacy and it’s going to be a real inconvenience if there’s a prolonged strike.”

Although negotiations are still ongoing, some patients are already dealing with inconveniences. “They told me that I could pick up my prescription on Thursday, and they called me this morning and told me that it wouldn’t be ready until Monday,” said David Schmoll. “That’s not acceptable, this isn’t right.”

One of the major points of contention in the negotiations has to do with a cutting of benefits for pharmacists. “Basically cut in half, actually to a third of what they have now,” said Guild for Professional Pharamcists’ representative Cheryl Asperger. “And, they would be working alongside the other people in the Pharmacy and the hospital who actually have much better benefits and they want us to do this, for the next couple of years. We believe it’s extremely unfair.”

Kaiser Permanente Director of Media Relations Jim Anderson responded with this written statement:

“These pharmacists are valued members of our team. We will welcome them back to the job when their strike is concluded, will continue to reach a fair and equitable contract with them…While our outpatient pharmacies will be closed during this 48-hour work stoppage, we have contracted with Walgreens pharmacies, so that members who need a new or refilled prescription during the strike will be able to have their prescriptions filled.”

Kaiser Permanente health plans highest in member satisfaction

Kaiser Permanente announced today that its members in four geographic regions rated the organization’s health plans highest in member satisfaction in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Member Health Insurance Plan Study(SM). The regions are California, Colorado, South Atlantic (Georgia), and Virginia-Maryland-Washington D.C. (Mid-Atlantic). In a fifth region, Kaiser Permanente in the Northwest, ranked second. These five regions serve more than 8.3 million of Kaiser Permanente’s more than 8.7 million members.

“We are very pleased to once again receive high marks in J.D. Power’s member satisfaction study for health plans. The results are particularly meaningful to us, since they are a measure of member satisfaction relative to all other health plans,” said Arthur M. Southam, MD, executive vice president, Health Plan Operations for Kaiser Permanente.

“Our integrated model puts our patients and members at the center of all that we do, which enables us to better coordinate and deliver high-quality health care, and be more engaged in supporting all aspects of our members’ total health,” Dr. Southam said.

Kaiser Permanente’s integrated approach to health care delivery provides access to services in-person, online and by phone. With easy-to-use, Web-based tools, all members have access to their personal health information in their secure medical record, as well as tools to communicate with their providers. My Health Manager on kp.org gives members the ability to perform important tasks online such as scheduling appointments and ordering prescription refills. Users also have 24/7 online access to lab test results, eligibility and benefits information, and even their children’s immunization records. In addition, all Kaiser Permanente physicians routinely use an electronic health record when caring for their patients in medical offices and hospitals.

Now in its fifth year, the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Member Health Insurance Plan Study(SM) measures member satisfaction among 137 health plans in 17 regions throughout the United States by examining seven key factors that each represent a distinct part of the member experience and together encompass the relationship between the health plan and its member: coverage and benefits; provider choice; information and communication; claims processing; statements; customer service; and approval processes. The study reports on the results of nearly 34,000 members of commercial health plans, and was conducted online in December 2010 and January 2011.

Each health plan included in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Member Health Insurance Plan Study(SM) was measured on a scale of 1,000 points. Details of the results in each of the regions where Kaiser Permanente ranked highly are outlined below:

* California Region: Kaiser Permanente earned 751 points, 57 above the average score for this region. This is the fourth year that Kaiser Permanente has ranked highest in the California region.
* Colorado Region: Kaiser Permanente earned 703 points, 21 points above the average score for this region. This is the fourth year that Kaiser Permanente has ranked highest in the Colorado region.
* South Atlantic (Georgia) Region: Kaiser Permanente earned 747 points, 47 points above the average for this region. This is the second year that Kaiser Permanente has ranked highest in the South Atlantic region.
* Virginia-Maryland-Washington D.C. (Mid-Atlantic) Region: Kaiser Permanente earned 751 points, 54 points above the average for this region. This is the third year that Kaiser Permanente has ranked highest in the Virginia-Maryland-Washington D.C. region.
* Northwest Region: Kaiser Permanente ranks second and earned 737 points, 33 points above the average in the Northwest region.
* J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Member Health Insurance Plan Study(SM) did not include Kaiser Permanente’s Hawaii or Ohio regions in its research.

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 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.