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2014 BEST Health Care Provider: Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2014 Issue

“We’re ‘health care,’ not ‘sick care.’” —Judy Coffey

Health care has become a hot topic as implementation of the Affordable Care Act moves forward. As a result, many health care providers are seeing a surge in membership. “We've been very fortunate, our great quality and service has positioned Kaiser Permanente very well to respond to Covered California,” says Judy Coffey, RN, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma (KP), which has been chosen BEST Health Care Provider by NorthBay biz readers in the inaugural year of the award category—and for good reason.
Since its inception in the midst of the Great Depression, KP has approached things differently. It started when Dr. Sidney Garfield teamed with engineer-turned-insurance agent Harold Hatch to institute “prepayment” to cover medical costs for construction workers at some of the biggest New Deal public works projects in the western United States. When the nation entered World War II, Garfield was recruited by Henry J. Kaiser to bring the model to his booming Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif. At the end of World War II, Garfield and Kaiser both felt the innovative health care model could be successful more broadly. In October 1945, the Permanente Health Plan launched to the public (Kaiser’s name was added in 1952).
Today, KP is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plans, serving 9.1 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma has 276,000 members, 625 physicians and a staff of 4,000. With two hospitals and a number of medical offices scattered throughout the two counties, members have myriad opportunities to thrive.
Kaiser Permanente Marin-Sonoma is a full service medical provider, meaning most services, such as lab, pharmacy and medical imaging are located onsite, as well as many specialties including obstetrics and delivery (in Santa Rosa) to emergency and palliative care.
“One of the things you’ll hear about Kaiser is our success in decreasing heart attacks and strokes,” adds Carl Campbell, public affairs director, Marin/Sonoma service area. “We’re really leading the way in cardiac care. Heart attacks among KP members in Northern California declined 24 percent since 2000. If you live in Northern California and are a Kaiser member, you have a 30 percent less chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke. Some of that’s due to our preventive measures and some of that is because of our cardiac protocols and treatment when hospitalized.
“There’s a lot of prevention philosophy in what we do,” he continues. “We’ve won a lot of awards based on preventive measures, such as very high rates of mammograms and other cancer screenings.”
“We're 'health care,' not just 'sick care,'” says Coffey. “We're involved with and very committed to wellness. I’m a member of the Health Action Council, which is working toward Sonoma County becoming the healthiest community by 2020. KP also awards community benefit grants and gives monetary and in-kind donations to support and promote wellness in our communities.”
A large part of that commitment is demonstrated through participation and community involvement. “I have a goal for management to volunteer their time and share their expertise on boards in their communities,” says Coffey.
In addition, employees take part in “all the community walks—Heart Walk, Human Race, Relay for Life, Making Strides and others,” and “our doctors and other health care providers will go out and talk to groups about health and wellness." KP also offers a number of health education programs that are open to the public (not just members). “It’s a resource the community doesn’t always know about,” says Campbell. “It’s part of our goal of building a healthy community.”
In the end, it’s about being a good neighbor and working toward a healthier community for everyone. “To me, one of the most important attributes is to be a good corporate citizen. It isn’t just who you are, it’s who you are in relationship to your community,” says Coffey. “Why would anyone live here and not want to participate in community wellness?”



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