Interview With Bernard Tyson, Next CEO of Kaiser Permanente

Cultural competence in healthcare and diversity in succession planning are critical to the future of Kaiser Permanente, the next CEO, Bernard J. Tyson, told DiversityInc the day he was named to the position.

Bernard J. Tyson will be the next Chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. The board of directors of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan announced that Tyson will succeed George Halvorson, who is retiring next year.

Tyson, the current President and Chief Operating Officer, was interviewed by DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti the day he was named to the position. To hear audio of the interview, click on the audio players below. Tyson also spoke at our diversity event, emphasizing the organization's emphasis on cultural competency and an inclusive workplace.

Cultural competence in healthcare is a hallmark of both Kaiser Permanente and Tyson's personal priorities. "Our mission is to continue to become better educated and increase our competency in understanding the nuances of how we care for a diverse population," he told DiversityInc. "The Institute for Culturally Competent Care is a training ground. … It's a metaphor for where the brain trust is to help the rest of the organization better understand how to care for diverse populations."

In addressing corporate leaders who are selecting a health-insurance provider, he noted that the commitment to diversity is critical. "Your employees will see themselves in the walls of Kaiser Permanente. We are a diverse organization, taking care of diverse people," he said.

Where Are All the Black CEOs? 

Kaiser Permanente, No. 3 on The 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list, is not in the Fortune 500 since it is a nonprofit. However, the naming of a Black person to lead this major organization is a significant step. Currently, only 1.2 percent of Fortune 500 companies have Black CEOs, compared with 4 percent of the DiversityInc Top 50.

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Tyson noted Halvorson's legacy of creating the most diverse top of the organization in the DiversityInc Top 50. "My job is to build on that and leverage the great strength of the diversity as we continue to deal with very complex problems in this country and the healthcare system," he said.

Tyson is chairman of the board of directors of The Executive Leadership Council, which works to improve Black representation in senior levels across Fortune 500 and equivalent organizations. He emphasized the need for diversity from all underrepresented groups at the tops of organizations. He also is on the board of the American Heart Association.

Increasing Engagement and Motivation

Tyson discussed his long career at Kaiser, saying: "I've been afforded over the 28 years wonderful experiences in multiple roles. … At the end of the day, what has kept me here is that I believe in the mission, in high-quality affordable care."

He added: "It's all about creating an environment where the people bring their best thinking forward and are respected and recognized for that. The benefit is to have a highly motivated staff coming to work every day, taking care of our 9 million plus members."

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The decision to name Tyson came after an exhaustive search. "The full board of directors underwent an extensive internal and external search process, meeting regularly to consider a number of highly qualified candidates, to identify the next leader of Kaiser Permanente," said Kim Kaiser, board member and chairman of the search committee. "The board's decision to offer this position to Mr. Tyson is a testament to Kaiser Permanente's robust internal succession-planning process. During Mr. Tyson's 28 years at Kaiser Permanente, he has demonstrated excellent leadership and vision for this organization, uniquely qualifying him to serve as our next chairman and CEO."

Kaiser Permanente's succession planning will be featured in our diversity web seminar on succession planning, which will include best practices from IBM and CVS Caremark as well, on Dec. 4.

"The board made an excellent choice," said Halvorson.

"Bernard has done an extremely good job as President and COO of Kaiser Permanente, and I am confident he will continue to perform at the same level as Chairman and CEO."

Tyson has been President and COO for almost two years. Previously, he was Executive Vice President of Health Plan and Hospital Operations for Kaiser as well as Senior Vice President and COO for the organization's regions outside of California.

He has a bachelor's degree in Health Services Management and an MBA in Health Care Administration and Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He also earned an advanced leadership certificate from Harvard University.

Kaiser Permanente Researchers Develop New Models for Predicting Suicide Risk

Approach may offer value to health systems and clinicians in targeting interventions to prevent suicide

Originally Published by Kaiser Permanente.

Combining data from electronic health records with results from standardized depression questionnaires better predicts suicide risk in the 90 days following either mental health specialty or primary care outpatient visits, reports a team from the Mental Health Research Network, led by Kaiser Permanente research scientists.

The study, "Predicting Suicide Attempts and Suicide Death Following Outpatient Visits Using Electronic Health Records," conducted in five Kaiser Permanente regions (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, California and Washington), the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and the HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis, was published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Combining a variety of information from the past five years of people's electronic health records and answers to questionnaires, the new models predicted suicide risk more accurately than before, according to the authors. The strongest predictors include prior suicide attempts, mental health and substance use diagnoses, medical diagnoses, psychiatric medications dispensed, inpatient or emergency room care, and scores on a standardized depression questionnaire.

Dr. Simon shares what inspired him to study mental health.

"We demonstrated that we can use electronic health record data in combination with other tools to accurately identify people at high risk for suicide attempt or suicide death," said first author Gregory E. Simon, MD, MPH, a Kaiser Permanente psychiatrist in Washington and a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.

In the 90 days following an office visit:

  • Suicide attempts and deaths among patients whose visits were in the highest 1 percent of predicted risk were 200 times more common than among those in the bottom half of predicted risk.
  • Patients with mental health specialty visits who had risk scores in the top 5 percent accounted for 43 percent of suicide attempts and 48 percent of suicide deaths.
  • Patients with primary care visits who had scores in the top 5 percent accounted for 48 percent of suicide attempts and 43 percent of suicide deaths.

This study builds on previous models in other health systems that used fewer potential predictors from patients' records. Using those models, people in the top 5 percent of risk accounted for only a quarter to a third of subsequent suicide attempts and deaths. More traditional suicide risk assessment, which relies on questionnaires or clinical interviews only, is even less accurate.

The new study involved seven large health systems serving a combined population of 8 million people in nine states. The research team examined almost 20 million visits by nearly 3 million people age 13 or older, including about 10.3 million mental health specialty visits and about 9.7 million primary care visits with mental health diagnoses. The researchers deleted information that could help identify individuals.

"It would be fair to say that the health systems in the Mental Health Research Network, which integrate care and coverage, are the best in the country for implementing suicide prevention programs," Dr. Simon said. "But we know we could do better. So several of our health systems, including Kaiser Permanente, are working to integrate prediction models into our existing processes for identifying and addressing suicide risk."

Suicide rates are increasing, with suicide accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths in the United States in 2016; 25 percent more than in 2000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Other health systems can replicate this approach to risk stratification, according to Dr. Simon. Better prediction of suicide risk can inform decisions by health care providers and health systems. Such decisions include how often to follow up with patients, refer them for intensive treatment, reach out to them after missed or canceled appointments — and whether to help them create a personal safety plan and counsel them about reducing access to means of self-harm.

Nurse Posts on Facebook Stephon Clark Deserved to Die, Fired by Kaiser Permanente

The company said Faith Linthicum's comments "do not in any way reflect Kaiser Permanente's views or actions."


Kaiser Permanente (No. 2 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) has dismissed a nurse at its Roseville Medical Center in California for her Facebook comments about Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man killed March 18 by police in his grandparents' backyard in Sacramento.

Faith Linthicum of Sacramento, a nurse in labor and delivery, said on Facebook that Clark, 22, "deserved" to get shot by police:

"Yeah but he was running from the police jumping over fences and breaking in peoples houses... why run? He deserved it for being stupid."

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EY, Kaiser Permanente, Novartis, PwC and Sodexo have been inducted into DiversityInc's Top 50 Hall of Fame. The companies inducted into the Hall of Fame have demonstrated exceptional human capital management accomplishments and superior corporate values and culture.

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