Kaiser Permanente Opens Clinic in Washington


Hawley Peterson Snyder designed two new projects for Kaiser Permanente located in the heart of Washington DC. Kaiser Capitol Hill Medical Office Building is a new 180,000 s.f. primary care and specialty care facility which opened earlier this year. HPS also completed the new Center for Total Health with museum design firm Ralph Applebaum Associates. The Center for Total Health is a 13,000 s.f. interactive education and demonstration center scheduled to open to the public on April 11.

New York Times | April 5, 2011, 7:00 am

Kaiser Permanente Opens Clinic in Washington

Just days after the Obama administration unveiled regulations on how doctors and hospitals can band together to offer coordinated care, Kaiser Permanente will open on Tuesday a demonstration center near the Capitol Building to show what it believes such coordination should look like.

Kaiser, one of the nation’s largest insurers and care providers, intends to use the center and a large adjoining clinic to help influence the debate about overhauling the health care system.

“Historically, no matter how successful we were in California, it didn’t seem to matter,” Dr. Robert Pearl, chief executive of the Permanente Medical Group, said Monday during a preview of the clinic and center. “We want to be the model for the nation.”

To do that, the company felt that it had to expand its presence in the Washington metropolitan region to one that more closely mirrors those it has in California and Hawaii. It is completing five integrated health clinics in the region that will provide for nearly every patient need, from visits to primary care doctors to specialists to critical care.

One of those integrated centers is located next to the Securities and Exchange Commission building, a brief walk from the Capitol Building.

Adjoining the clinic is a technology demonstration and conference meeting space called the Center for Total Health that Kaiser hopes will draw policy makers not only from around the country but from around the world. Kaiser routinely hosts visits from foreign health ministers at its California clinics, but being able to offer such tours in Washington will be more convenient for many of these dignitaries.

Central to both the demonstration space and to Kaiser’s clinic is the nonprofit’s significant investment in communications technologies that allow patients, for instance, to avoid a trip to the dermatologist by e-mailing a cellphone picture of a skin mole.

“We had 10 million e-mail visits last year that in any other health system would have been real visits to the doctor,” George Halvorson, chairman and chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, said during the tour.

The reason that Kaiser encourages such efficiencies, he said, is that it is both an insurer and a health provider. Mr. Halvorson noted that most providers earned more money from repeat visits and thus had little incentive to be more efficient.

Even the Europeans are surprised at how effectively Kaiser used health information technology, Mr. Halvorson said. “The Europeans have all this information on the computer, but they’re not doing anything with it,” he said.

Studies have shown that Kaiser’s integrated health care delivery model has lowered deaths from heart attacks and stroke and from infections to HIV/AIDS and sepsis over the rates seen among those who have standard health insurance. But the Kaiser model has had difficulty growing outside of its base in California and Hawaii. Dr. Pearl said he thought that Kaiser’s use of information technology to drive efficiencies across its network and improve patient experiences would soon accelerate its growth.

“In 10 years, we’ll be twice the size we are now,” Dr. Pearl said.

By using the center and its Washington clinic to demonstrate the benefits of the Kaiser model to administration officials and legislators, Kaiser hopes that future legislation and regulations will aid in Kaiser’s further growth, Dr. Pearl said.

“Because being the 21st-century solution to health care is what Kaiser’s all about,” Dr. Pearl said.

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