Kaiser Permanente recently acquired nonprofit health care system Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, along with its more than 600,000 members, bringing Kaiser’s national membership to more than 11 million members. Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Oakland, Calif., has led the nation’s largest integrated health care system since taking over as CEO in July 2013, and H&HN recently spoke with Tyson on the acquisition and what it means for Kaiser Permanente and the community it serves.
What does the acquisition of Group Health Cooperative mean for Kaiser’s integrated model of care?
TYSON: We’re excited because we’ve had a long-term relationship with Group Health for many years. We’re two very similar organizations with similar histories, so the match just makes a lot of sense. For Kaiser Permanente, we wanted to grow in new markets in addition to what we were seeing in our current markets. This is our first new market in more than 20 years. We’re excited about this one in particular because it’s such a wonderful plan and delivery system that we’re going to build on as a part of Kaiser Permanente.
What does this partnership mean for patients and the expanded community you’ll be serving?
TYSON: It means that we’ll bring the full commitment of Kaiser Permanente to this market and build on the great work that Group Health has already started. We’re heavy into the integrated delivery system, we provide complete care and coverage to all the members who belong to Kaiser Permanente and we have a strong commitment to the community, with our community initiatives and community benefit funding. We bring technology to the market with our enabled technology and strategies — members can get a lot of their care needs met with iPhones and iPads — and so we’re very technologically advanced. We’ll bring all of the resources of Kaiser Permanente to this new market to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the people of the state of Washington who look to Kaiser Permanente for their future health care needs.
Can you talk about some of the investments Kaiser will be putting into the community?
TYSON: We’re still working on the strategy in terms of where we’re going to put new facilities, but we’ve made a clear commitment that when we come into the market, we will be building some of our state-of-the-art medical centers in Washington state. We haven’t finalized the plans, obviously, as we’re just now taking it over. And really, now we’re beginning to look at the whole delivery strategy layout, but we’ve been very explicit about our commitment for capital in this market.
How important is it to continually look at new and innovative models of care, especially with the uncertainty of the new administration?
TYSON: It’s critically important. Administrations come and go, but people will always need their health care needs taken care of. Tthe new administration doesn’t change our agenda for continually working on improving quality, accessibility and affordability. That agenda is relevant regardless of the administration and we will continue to look at and innovate in this area, not only for our members, but for the entire health care industry.
Why do you think Kaiser has been so successful?
TYSON: First and foremost, we have a partnership with medical groups that provide some of the best physicians, not only in the country, but in the world. And we’re organized in a way in which we provide the coverage and the care, so all the right incentives are in place to deliver on prevention and early detection and to take care of the more comprehensive health care needs individuals have at any given time. I would say the second thing is that we’ve made major investments in technology, so our physicians and our wonderful nurses and other care team providers have the tools and information they need to make the best-informed decisions. And lastly, because we tend to focus on evidence-based care and we have a robust research area for ongoing research, it allows us to better understand how to take care of populations and individuals. I think all of these examples add up to the reasons why we’ve been recognized, and appropriately so, as a high-value, important health system for this country.