Kaiser Permanente's CEO: The Right to Health

"Suddenly the country is preparing to re-engage in a debate about health and health care and its role in our collective experience as Americans," Bernard J. Tyson writes.

By Kaiser Permanente's CEO Bernard J. Tyson


Bernard J. Tyson

Suddenly the country is preparing to re-engage in a debate about health and health care and its role in our collective experience as Americans. This debate creates a heightened sense of unpredictability and uncertainty as well as great opportunity. I maintain the glass is half-full, and that we can continue to make progress against our most pressing challenges. I am also practical and know that various views exist on how best to achieve this.

With a bird's-eye view on the health of America, I've been thinking a lot about individual and community health. Can all people in America experience high-quality health and health care? How do we make high-quality health care accessible and affordable to all? And perhaps the most pressing question: how does the health care industry positively impact health for those who walk through our doors and live in the communities we serve?

As a $61 billion not-for-profit organization, I'm proud that we invest our dollars to benefit our 11 million members. And, equally important, is our commitment to make lives better for the people who live in the communities we serve. We take this responsibility very seriously. Whether it's looking at the issue of public safety in the neighborhoods – or teaching youth about conflict resolution through play – the issue of health goes well beyond the time spent at the doctor's office.

To further demonstrate this commitment to our members and communities, I recently appointed our first Chief Community Health Officer, Dr. Bechara Choucair. His job is to improve the health of the 60 million people in our communities – and to share what we've learned so that people across America and the world will be able to live healthier lives. We contributed $2.1 billion in 2015 to benefit our communities.

At Kaiser Permanente (No. 1 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), we are guided by our four beliefs:

- We believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require total health – and that includes equal access to high-quality health care for all;

- We believe that total health is more than freedom from physical affliction – it's about mind, body and spirit;

- We believe that health care must be affordable for all – because thriving individuals, families and communities require that;

- We believe in a healthy and engaged life – with good beginnings and dignified endings.

I want to share our beliefs because better health is the foundation for being the best you can be while handling all of the roles and responsibilities 21st century life requires.

We need to have equitable access to higher quality and more affordable health care that gives everyone access to the front door of the American health care system. I talk to physicians and care teams on the front lines of care, who share their stories about how we are having a positive impact on people's lives. We've seen thousands of examples demonstrating why access to coverage leads to better health:

- A woman who had an undiagnosed heart condition and who never had health insurance before walks through our front doors with an appointment to a primary care physician. Rather than coming to us as a heart attack victim sent to our emergency room, she received the right complex cardiac care from our physicians and care teams and has returned to being a productive citizen and matriarch with years left to be a mother and grandmother;

- A child who had severe asthma was not getting better. Our health care workers – with his parents – evaluate his home environment to better understand why the boy's health isn't improving. Then we fixed the problem.

These dual efforts – our commitment to consider every person living within the communities we serve and the policies that are helping provide access to the system for these people – are working in tandem. Still, we have much to accomplish and we must not lose sight of the goal. I am thankful for the opportunity to work for an organization whose employees and physicians are delivering health to more people each and every day. And good health should be everyone's right – we just have to make it happen.

We look forward to working with the Trump administration, just as we have with the Obama administration, toward better health for all. The right to health is the America I believe in, because good health is necessary for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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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Abbott Introduces the Afinion™ 2 Analyzer Rapid Test System for Diabetes Management

State-of-the-art multi-assay test system helps people with diabetes get the HbA1c results they need within three minutes — allowing more time for consultation and care during a single healthcare visit.

Originally Published by Abbott.

Abbott announced the launch of its Afinion™ 2 analyzer in the U.S., the newest generation of the Afinion test system. The Afinion 2 builds on Abbott's heritage in diabetes care by empowering patients with information about their health that they can discuss with their providers during a single visit.

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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.