Kaiser Permanente Named First CMS Health Equity Award Recipient

Accolade recognizes non-profit health system's commitment to reducing disparities for Medicare recipients.

Kaiser Permanente (No. 2 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) the nation's largest integrated health system, has received the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' inaugural Health Equity Award, which recognizes Kaiser Permanente's commitment to reducing and eliminating disparities in health care quality and access for its members receiving Medicare benefits.


Kaiser Permanente's longstanding commitment to equitable care has helped it become an industry leader in developing and implementing best practices, approaches and evidence-based medicine aimed at improving health equity outcomes. With this award, CMS has specifically recognized Kaiser Permanente's Hypertension Program Improvement Process, which has significantly reduced disparities in blood pressure control rates across racial and ethnic groups, including among African-American Medicare members ages 18 to 85.

"Kaiser Permanente's physicians are dedicated to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive and affordable care to every one of our patients. Eliminating disparities is complex and requires reliable systems of care that support our interdisciplinary teams," said Michael Kanter, MD, executive vice president of Quality and chief quality officer, The Permanente Federation. "From 2009 to 2017, the percentage of Kaiser Permanente's African-American Medicare members with controlled hypertension increased from 75.3 percent to 89.6 percent, a huge increase that has improved the quality of life – and even saved the lives – of thousands of people."

Key elements of the organization's approach included collecting and stratifying data to identify and prioritize health outcome disparities, upgrading clinical practice guidelines, and expanding educational resources available to Kaiser Permanente members. Strong community partnerships play an important role in bringing care directly to communities in need, including offering blood pressure checks at beauty salons and barbershops.

"Equity is not just a word we use to describe our ideals; it is the backbone of our work and woven into every strategy and tactic we deploy to provide personal and inclusive care to all of our members, and to spread those best practices across our organization so members can receive the same quality care no matter when, where or how they receive our services," said Patrick Courneya, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals.

As one of the nation's first health care providers to racially integrate its hospitals and waiting rooms, as well as hire a diverse workforce, non-profit Kaiser Permanente has seven decades of experience promoting diversity, inclusion and health equity. In 2017, Kaiser Permanente received the American Hospital Association's Equity of Care Award, a recognition that highlighted the organization's use of data-driven initiatives and electronic health record to target health disparities.

Learn about career opportunities at Kaiser Permanente 

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.