DENVER — Kaiser Permanente Colorado, the state’s largest nonprofit health plan, is making several multimillion dollar investments to better meet the needs of its more than 680,000 members. These investments include a new digital chat function that allows members to communicate directly with a physician online, several new urgent care facilities, and more than 160 new primary and specialty care physicians.
Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to improving access and the experience for its members includes three parts:
Kaiser Permanente is taking its commitment to health technology to the next level by launching “Chat with a Doctor.” This online platform allows members to securely interact with a physician in real time, for questions or advice. Patients can also share photos.
This secure chat function is available at no co-pay, from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. every day. “Chat with a Doctor’s” convenient hours allow members to connect with a provider as soon as medical issues arise. Thousands of chat sessions have taken place since the new service launched in November 2016.
“Our members love ‘Chat with a Doctor’,” said Margaret Ferguson, MD, president and executive medical director of the Colorado Permanente Medical Group, which provides clinical care to Kaiser Permanente Colorado members. “Like our other virtual care offerings, ‘Chat’ is convenient and makes it easier for members to access health care on their terms.”
Also in the last year, Kaiser Permanente has rolled out a comprehensive update to My Health Manager, its mobile app. Through My Health Manager, members can now schedule appointments, receive text reminders about upcoming appointments, text alerts when a prescription is ready for pick up, and view a map of urgent care, hospitals and medical offices located near them.
Expansion and facility improvements
Kaiser Permanente launched urgent care services in 2016. In just the first year of operations, its members made 39,000 urgent care visits — 14,000 of which came in the last three months alone.
Kaiser Permanente has added urgent care services to its Lone Tree, Lakewood, Westminster and East Denver medical offices. In 2018, urgent care services will be added to Kaiser Permanente’s Aurora Centrepoint medical offices as part of a larger, 18-month remodel of the entire facility.
These urgent care services offer convenient hours and treatment options. Members who visit Kaiser Permanente urgent care sometimes avoid a potentially costly and inconvenient trip to the emergency room.
“At Kaiser Permanente, we always look for opportunities to improve the entire patient care experience,” said Roland Lyon, Kaiser Permanente Colorado president. “We’re pleased our renewed focus on urgent care has been well received and will continue to make it easier for our members to receive care where and when they need it.”
Exclusive to the urgent care capabilities at the Kaiser Permanente Lone Tree and Lakewood facilities is a same-day care service known as Regional Acute Diagnostic And Referral (RADAR). This service offers immediate access to advanced diagnostic testing and treatment for acute medical conditions and is integrated with urgent care services.
Kaiser Permanente has also undertaken some ambitious expansion plans in Colorado over the past few years.
Last year, Kaiser Permanente expanded west and opened its newest medical offices in the mountain communities of Eagle and Summit counties — which are considered two of the most underserved health care communities in the nation.
Kaiser Permanente will, for the first time, open a retail-based medical clinic, offering routine care to both members and nonmembers. The new facility will be located in the Catalyst Health-Tech Innovation development in Denver’s River North (RiNo) district opening in 2018. It will build upon a similar model of care that Kaiser Permanente recently launched in Portland, Oregon, which provides non-emergency health care services. The Catalyst clinic will also serve as a pilot site where clinical providers can explore new methods of care delivery and rapidly test concepts and technology.
“We are no longer designing Kaiser Permanente from the inside out,” said Lyon. “With our new approach, we’re looking from the outside in — talking to our members about their daily experiences and the technologies they’re likely to embrace — to develop strategies and infrastructure enhancements that are relevant and timely.”
Lastly, Kaiser Permanente has made a significant investment in physician recruitment. Over the past year, more than 160 physicians from a variety of primary and specialty care backgrounds — from orthopedics and cardiology to neurology and oncology — have been hired to ensure Kaiser Permanente members are receiving the best medical treatment available in the state.
Kaiser Permanente has also hired approximately 40 behavioral health staff and specialists, including licensed clinical social workers, mental health therapists and licensed psychologists. These specialists are located in all 24 Kaiser Permanente primary care departments in the Denver metro area, Boulder, Longmont, Loveland, Greeley and Fort Collins.
Integrating primary care and behavioral health services is a unique concept in Colorado. This model of care allows primary care and behavioral health providers to work in team. It also offers increased convenience for Kaiser Permanente members, as they can visit the same location to receive primary and behavioral health care.
“As more Coloradans choose Kaiser Permanente for their care and coverage, we, in turn, must continue to invest in hiring top physicians and clinical staff to serve as their partners in health,” said Dr. Ferguson. “By embedding our behavioral health experts into our primary care teams, we can treat our members’ physical and mental health in a truly integrated way.”
About Kaiser Permanente Colorado
Kaiser Permanente Colorado is the state’s largest nonprofit health plan, working to improve the lives and health of all Coloradans for 48 years. We are comprised of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and the Colorado Permanente Medical Group—one of the state’s largest medical groups with more than 1,200 physicians. We provide comprehensive care for our 680,000 Kaiser Permanente Colorado members through 31 medical offices across the state—from Pueblo to Greeley and now in the mountains in Summit and Eagle counties. We are also committed to our social mission and in 2016, proudly directed more than $118 million to community benefit programs to improve the health of all Coloradans. For more Kaiser Permanente news, visit kp.org/share or follow us @kpcolorado or like us facebook.com/kpcolorado.