News & Views

Feature Story

The Future of Care Delivery

Excited for your next medical appointment? You might be at Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s new Signal Hill medical offices.

September 26, 2016



Signal Hill's Public Square Signal Hill's "Public Square" offers members a chance to sit down and relax, plug in or chat with new people. Checking in to your appointment is easier now because members have the opportunity to check in and handle their co-payment before walking in the door.

You walk in, verify at a kiosk that you’ve already checked in and paid, plug in your laptop at the charging station, and soon get a text that it’s your turn. No — you’re not at Starbucks — you’re at Kaiser Permanente’s new Signal Hill Medical Office in Southern California for your medical appointment.

Signal Hill exemplifies Kaiser Permanente’s most recent effort of evolving its care model to better integrate into members’ lives.

“Granddad’s medical office building doesn’t cut it anymore,” said Don Orndoff, senior vice president, National Facilities Services.  “We’ve all now become accustomed to the Amazon and Uber experience and that’s our new expectation.”

The medical office of the future at Kaiser Permanente means harnessing design, technology and workflow to create an intuitive and convenient experience for members and care teams. It also means developing a much more agile and flexible environment that meets the evolving technology and service needs of those increasingly tech-savvy members and care teams.

Convenience and care under one roof

Signal Hill opened to Kaiser Permanente members on June 29, 2016, and its sleek architectural design doesn’t disappoint. But it’s the convenient technology features and efficient spaces inside that really impress. When you walk inside the building, you enter into the “public square.”

Since members have the option of checking in and handling their copayments at home, a quick visit to the kiosk allows them to take advantage of a number of options available to them in the public square. They can engage with others at the community table or use computers at the docking station. Or, they can decompress in a quiet spot on the upstairs “porch.” In fact, members can use their time wherever they wish because once the provider is ready, the member will receive a text message.

At the pharmacy, there is also no need to wait around. You’ll receive a text when your medication is ready.

Signal Hill's exam room

Signal Hill’s exam room features comfortable furniture, an area for family seating, and a room monitor for provider/patient education and virtual visits.

The exam rooms don’t look traditional either. Instead of the long, awkward exam table and steel chairs, there’s a comfortable reclining chair and a couch for family seating. The care team also uses hand-held tablets, which is not only easier for them, but avoids having the member stare at the back of a big computer monitor. On the wall, there’s a large monitor for virtual visits or patient education programs.

For providers and care teams, the facility is designed to facilitate collaboration and efficiency.

“What it did was help eliminate isolation,” said Todd Sachs, MD, medical director, Operations, Southern California Permanente Medical Group. The open design pulls the team together.

“In effect what this is doing is reenergizing the team and helping them rediscover the joy of medicine,” Dr. Sachs said.

Medical Office Building of the Future — intuitive, pervasive, and aspirational

The first step in dreaming up the next generation of medical offices involved sitting down with members, customers and care teams to uncover what they needed. For the longest time, the model of care has been the traditional face-to-face visit — one solution for everyone. f

“If you are somebody who loses a day of pay to come to us, that system does not work,” said Jodie Lesh, senior vice president, Strategic Planning and New Ventures, Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “So this idea of being pervasive, having multiple ways to interact with us — to see us, to touch us, to experience us — was very important to us if we were truly going to impact people’s lives in a much more meaningful way.”

care team area

Say good-bye to the traditional long hallways in medical offices. This open space design provides the care team with an energetic and inviting area to encourage team collaboration.

Planners boiled down the member and care team “wish list” into a little more than a dozen technologies — those that would support a meaningful member experience, including the digital membership card, kiosks and tablets for the care team.

“We wanted to bring the new normal to health care. Today, many parts of your life are digitally enabled,” said Wendy Lee, senior vice president, Corporate Services & Digital Technologies, Kaiser Permanente.  “We also knew that at the same time our caregivers wanted to have increased collaboration using technology and, more importantly, a set of technology that was intuitive and efficient. Every minute that we can give back to a care team member that they instead can spend with a patient is valuable time.”

Signal Hill — it’s just the beginning

Signal Hill is Kaiser Permanente’s third full “health hub” medical office building. The first two, also in Southern California, are in Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach.  There are also a few Kaiser Permanente medical office buildings that have incorporated various elements of the health hub concept in their design, such as the Provider Enclave at the Mountain Colorado Frisco and Edwards medical offices.

There are seven additional medical office buildings in active construction, with several more in the early planning stages.

Recently, Kaiser Permanente received an “Outstanding Organization” award from Healthcare Design Magazine and was featured in Fast Company magazine for designing a “health center that puts patients first.”