Q1. It’s been over two years since Kaiser Permanente purchased Group Health. What, if anything, has changed for the company’s Spokane presence?
A1. Spokane is a priority market for Kaiser Permanente Washington. We have created a long-term strategic plan that includes growth in services, growth in the number of patients we serve, and our continued commitment to the health of the Spokane community. In our first two years, we’ve focused on improved service to our members as well as deepening our commitment to the communities we serve. Here are some examples. By leveraging the knowledge and resources now available to us through Kaiser Permanente, we’ve been able to make improvements to our facilities for a better patient experience and empower our staff by offering new opportunities and resources to them. Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools initiative has been activated in Spokane – bringing educational theatre programs to our middle schools, offering ‘Buddy Benches’ to our local elementary schools, and providing funding to efforts like the Spokane County Threat Assessment Cooperative to enable our school districts to work with community agencies to better address needs of our students.
Q2. As head of operations, what are the metrics that you pay most attention to?
A2. This year the number one metric we are monitoring is around our service and experience. How do our customers perceive our service and care access within Kaiser Permanente? Health care tends to have a notorious customer service reputation, and we are diligently working to turn that around. We currently use Press Ganey to measure satisfaction and experience for our patients and members and are working on several initiatives to improve experience regarding access, our phone systems, and how well we coordinate care within the system.
Q3. To what degree, if any, do the indicators on Spokane Trends help inform the operations of Kaiser Permanente in the area?
A3. We utilize the indicators on Spokane Trends in multiple ways, including trends in population growth, Medicaid coverage, and many of the metrics within the health section. Each of these helps us define our plans around supporting the community from a care and coverage perspective, identify gaps, as well as how we can continue to participate effectively in our ongoing goal of improving the health of all residents of Spokane. Being able to access these pertinent indicators in one place is a powerful resource.
Q4. You’ve been in the Spokane area for over 25 years. Surely some aspects of life – in or outside of healthcare -- here have changed over the interval. Are you able to find any of those changes reflected in the Trends?
A4. I’m a life long resident of Spokane and have seen many things change over the years. The most exciting changes from both a personal and professional view is the growth of our community overall and the decrease in the last few years in the number of uninsured. It has been so exciting to see Spokane grow as a community and enjoy a vitality and spark that was missing in years past. I have always been proud of this community and all we have to share, and it’s exciting to see us thrive. On a more health care related note, I think one of the most significant impacts in Spokane in the last few years has been the expansion and access to health care insurance. The current growth in Medicaid coverage fills a need to improve overall health care security despite household income increasing slowly. If you ask me the same question in another five years, what I hope to see is an improvement in overall health including a decrease in chronic disease. Just because we have health care coverage doesn’t mean we are necessarily moving the needle on overall health—but it is a step in the right direction.
Q5. As a healthcare professional, you have likely experienced some, perhaps dramatic, changes over the past three decades. Is a greater facility with data one of them? If so, where do you see enhanced use and understanding of data among your colleagues?
A5. The use of data is integral to the success of health care at both macro and micro levels. On a broader scale, trends of overall health, predictive modeling, and understanding clinical variation have been key in creating evidence-based models and supporting our approach to integrated care. Adding in more focused personal analytics and how we use information to make daily health decisions will be a fascinating expansion in the years to come. In Spokane we have created an integrated information sharing model as most health care systems are now using the same electronic medical record. This enhances quality and safety as well as improves the transitions of care. We are at a tremendous time in health care in many ways and agreeing as an industry and society on how we use data going forward will be exciting, challenging, and ultimately will transform how health care is delivered.