High-quality care with integrated, team-based treatment at Kaiser

Kaiser, a 72-year-old company with 11 million members and 20,000 doctors among its 190,000 employees, has the highest quality outcomes in the United States.
Kaiser, a 72-year-old company with 11 million members and 20,000 doctors among its 190,000 employees, has the highest quality outcomes in the United States. PHOTO: ST FILE

When Ms Mary Gonzalez, who is with US healthcare group Kaiser Permanente, went to see her eye doctor, she was reminded that she was overdue for a mammogram.

She had one done the next day. They found a cancerous lump, which was successfully removed, and she did not need chemotherapy.

This was possible only because of Kaiser's integrated and team-based care, said its chief medical information officer, Dr John Mattison.

Dr Mattison used the example to illustrate that no matter who the patient sees at Kaiser, the moment her records are called up, it flags any outstanding issues - in this case, breast screening.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

Kaiser, a 72-year-old company with 11 million members and 20,000 doctors among its 190,000 employees, has the highest quality outcomes in the United States.

At the National IT Summit yesterday, Dr Mattison said Kaiser outdoes its competitors and is able to do it with ever-reducing costs because all its doctors and hospitals are on the same digital platform. He applauded Singapore's move in this direction, saying that it is far more advanced in health IT than the US.

Kaiser also uses big data to identify more successful treatments, and this is shared with all the doctors, who can implement it within "minutes to days".

There was a big study that found that half the people who have lost their spleen do not get vaccinated against a bacterial infection that is generally harmless for others, but could be fatal for them. Kaiser trawled its database for clients who had had their spleen removed but had not been given the pneumococcal vaccine, to offer it to them.

 
 

Dr Mattison said most had their spleen taken out after an accident, but did not tell their physician and hence missed out on the vaccine.

Another focus for Kaiser is communication. Clients do not always need to see a doctor. They can call or e-mail for a prescription if it is nothing too serious.

But Dr Mattison said that would depend on the nature of the problem and the person involved. A 20- year-old with a bladder problem would be given a prescription for antibiotics, but not an 80-year-old with multiple morbidity.

Kaiser pays its doctors according to outcomes and patient satisfaction, rather than the number of people they see.

But he stressed that the most important thing is to spend money on getting children to adopt healthy lifestyles, so more money will not have to be spent later "cleaning up" their medical problem. The US, he said, spends US$270 billion (S$374 billion) a year treating diabetes.

Salma Khalik

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2017, with the headline 'High-quality care with integrated, team-based treatment at Kaiser'. Print Edition | Subscribe