CEO Bernard Tyson: My Personal Tribute to Kaiser Permanente Physicians

"The miracle of the medical experience is almost unreal, and I salute all the physicians practicing in America and throughout the world," writes Tyson.

Bernard J. Tyson

Kaiser Permanente is No. 1 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list

Some of you may have heard or read about my career aspiration as a child – I wanted to be a doctor. Following my recent heart episode, I found myself reflecting on this and the Permanente Medical Group physicians of Kaiser Permanente who cared for me – and about me.

I often speak about the importance of health, and I have worked hard to eat right, exercise and take good care of myself – although I still am working on getting more sleep. Recently, while going about business as usual, I had an episode involving my heart, the first since my heart surgery more than 11 years ago. Throughout the past 11 years, my primary care physician and my cardiologist have taken exceptional care of me.

Because I'm in tune with my body enough to know something wasn't right, I sought advice from my cardiologist and went to the Emergency Room immediately. In that moment where your health is on the line, it doesn't matter what position you hold or what resources you have or don't have. The important things that matter are being able to continue living your life and overcoming all of your fears when your body isn't acting normally. It was scary and I was scared.

While I have always been a person of faith, my prayers were answered through the wonderful Emergency Department (ED) care team led by our ED physicians. Thankfully, after x-rays, ultra-sound and other procedures, the ED team pinpointed the problem and stabilized me to normalcy within a short period of time. While one might equate the care I received to the position I hold, I see this same level of care and expertise all the time during the many site visits I make each year to Kaiser Permanente hospitals and medical offices throughout the areas we serve. I also hear from our members in person and through notes specifically praising our physicians.

My cardiologist joined me in the Emergency Department and immediately took charge. Her skills, competency, compassion and leadership were on full display. She explained. She touched. She observed. She instructed. She listened. She cared. My prognosis depended on the ability of my physicians to guide me – both mentally and physically – through an explanation of what was happening in my body and the options that were available to me.

A week later I required a medical procedure that went directly into my heart, and I experienced first-hand the medical excellence we deliver. The team of physicians was led by an interventional cardiologist who was a master of his profession. He was incredible! The way he described what he was going to do and how he would do it made me feel like I was meeting with an artist – and perhaps this is the highest level of art and science one can do because it sustains life. The procedure went exceptionally well. They were able to go into my heart, fix the problem and return me to health in a matter of days. I have fully recovered to enjoy life with my family and to lead this incredible organization.

This is my personal tribute to our physicians – to my personal physicians with their dedication, expertise and professionalism who returned me to health – and to the 22,600 Permanente Medical Group physicians who practice skillfully for the 11.7 million members of Kaiser Permanente.

Physicians work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. They work early, late, and on weekends and holidays. In addition to advocating prevention through diet and exercise, they manage complex and critical care with their knowledge, capabilities and world-class leadership for our patients and for the medical profession.

I love my job, but I am not a physician. That's why I want to say thank you to our physicians: Thank you for taking the Hippocratic Oath; for practicing in a system that allows you to focus on and to perfect best practice medicine rather than push mind-boggling paperwork and mitigate administrative distractions; for raising the bar on evidence-based medicine that has set new standards for achievable health outcomes impacting millions of people; for practicing in a self-governance model that supports your success; for setting the highest expectations for medical excellence; and for deciding to become a physician in the first place, which requires rigor and selfless commitment. You can count on my support and appreciation for what you do every day for your patients and for who you are – a physician.

The miracle of the medical experience is almost unreal, and I salute all the physicians practicing in America and throughout the world. While I've always loved our physicians, I walked out of the hospital with even more respect and gratitude for what they do for all of us. Thank you for giving me more years, new memories and beautiful moments to come. I salute you.

Kaiser Permanente: It's Men's Health Month

A look at the top health threats that face men, prevention tips and how to get additional help.

Originally Published by Kaiser Permanente.

As we celebrate Men's Health Month, it's important to stay aware of the most pressing health problems the men close to you may face, and to encourage early detection of these problems.

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Reducing Opioids Not Associated with Lower Patient Satisfaction Scores, Kaiser Permanente Study Finds

Opioid use has been a major health concern in the U.S. Opioid use increased in the United States by 300 percent from 1997 to 2010, and overdose deaths increased 200 percent from 2000 to 2014.

Originally Published by Kaiser Permanente.

A Kaiser Permanente study of nearly 2,500 patients who used high doses of opioids for at least six months showed that reducing their opioid use did not lower their satisfaction with care. The study, "Satisfaction With Care After Reducing Opioids for Chronic Pain," was published today in The American Journal of Managed Care.

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Five Questions with Dr. Ronald Copeland of Kaiser Permanente on Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace

Depression and other mental health conditions are a leading cause of workplace disability in the form of lost productivity because of how common they are–1 out of every 5 people are suffering from a mental health condition at any given time–and because they tend to occur when people are young.

Originally Published by National Organization on Disability.

Kaiser Permanente's focus on reducing mental health stigma for consumers and members also applies to its own employees. The National Organization on Disability caught up with Ron Copeland, MD, to understand how to best create a supportive and inclusive workplace for people who are experiencing a mental health condition.

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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.