Posts Tagged ‘Kaiser Permanente Division of Research’

Decades of health records fuel Kaiser Permanente research

posted on March 6, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

Inside a Kaiser Permanente paper chart room before electronic health records. Kaiser Permanente Heritage photo

In a highly technological world, paper medical charts no longer show up in Kaiser Permanente doctors’ hands when they interact with today’s tech-savvy patients.  These collections of hand-written notes of our medical complaints, drug prescriptions, lab tests and more, are going the way of fax machines and typewriters.

They’ve been replaced by Kaiser Permanente’s award-winning electronic medical record system, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, which brings patients much closer to their providers.1

But preserved paper patient records going back to World War II will continue to be a valuable asset for research, even as we trade in the old cumbersome model for the new.

Gary Friedman, MD, retired director of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., says Kaiser Permanente’s medical records – whether the original hard copies or digital files– are valuable assets to allow groundbreaking research.

In a 1998 article in The Permanente Journal, Friedman wrote: “Our collection of manual charts going back over 50 years is a national treasure and must be preserved despite the storage and retrieval costs entailed.”

In his 2006 oral history, Friedman said the highly touted study on the value of sigmoidoscopy in preventing colon cancer relied on paper records going back to the 1970s.2

Former Northern California Division of Research Director Gary Friedman, MD, with patient, on the cover of the 1989 Kaiser Permanente Annual Report.

He added: “(In) a recent study I did on the early symptoms of ovarian cancer (we found) by going into the charts (paper records) we could get much more of what the physicians recorded in text about the symptoms these women were having . . .  Who knows what question might come up in the future (that could be answered) by looking at these charts that go back to the mid-1940s?”3

Kaiser Permanente’s early foray into digital world

Kaiser Permanente’s journey into electronic record keeping started around 1960 and took advantage of emerging computer technology. A desire to prevent chronic disease through pre-symptom screening supplied the motivation to automate routine tests and to compile anonymous patient data for population-based research.

Barbara Breen, a medical assistant at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in the early 1970s, had her hands on paper charts as well as on the pioneering electronic medical records of the day. She often stood by as lunch-time relief to ensure the computer ran fluidly as it processed punch cards that coded the results of patient visits for Kaiser Permanente’s complete physical (multiphasic) examination.

She was on the cutting edge of computer technology of the time and was in awe. “I got to see all these brand new machines and they assigned me to the spirometer (to test lung capacity),” Breen recalled recently. “The patients filled out a medical questionnaire (health assessment) and had 90 minutes to go around to all the cubicles where they had the tests.”

Data collected by Breen and others in the multiphasic unit were fed into early computers that took up the basement at 3779 Piedmont Ave., just off of MacArthur Boulevard near Kaiser Permanente’s flagship medical center in Oakland, Calif.

Tracking members’ health over decades

Over the years, these records, now considered invaluable and precious, have been the basis for many Kaiser Permanente longitudinal research projects. Collection of detailed patient data from 1964 to 1972 was made possible by the pioneering computer work of Morris Collen, MD, largely funded by the federal government.

Barbara Breen, on the Kaiser Permanente staff for 30 years, had her hands on paper charts as well as early electronic health records.

Breen, who worked for Kaiser Permanente for 30 years mostly in the northern San Francisco Bay Area, recalls having the duty to retrieve charts for patients scheduled to come into the San Rafael facilities in the 1970s.

“I got a job down on Fourth Street, which was an old motel . . . General Medicine was downstairs and Internal Medicine was upstairs, and the garage next door is where all the charts were. And in those days, we didn’t have (access to) computers yet, so if you needed a chart ASAP you would order it by phone.

“The chart room didn’t always have an extra person to bring the chart over. So the medical assistant or other (staff person) went out, rain or shine, across the parking lot, into the remodeled garage and picked up your chart.”

Today, Kaiser Permanente medical centers are constructed without medical chart rooms, indicating a confidence that the electronic chart is here to stay. With KP HealthConnect® in place, patients get their routine test results much quicker, and they can discuss their care with their physicians via secure email and mobile devices.

For member convenience, patients who travel can have their medical data downloaded on to a memory stick to take wherever they go. For quality of care, physicians have access to patients’ medical information in any of Kaiser Permanente’s facilities nationwide, enabling better care and avoiding duplication of tests.

 

1 Kaiser Permanente has been awarded Stage 7 honors by the Health Information Management Systems Society Analytics for 36 of its hospitals. Stage 7 is the highest award in the category and recognizes environments in which paper charts are no longer used to deliver patient care. KP was also honored with the HIMSS Davis Award for excellence for 2011. The 2013 annual HIMSS conference is under way in New Orleans through Thursday, March 7.

2 Selby, JV, Friedman, GD, Quesenberry CP Jr, Weiss NS. A case-control study of screening sigmoidoscopy and mortality from colorectal cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 1992.

3 Kaiser Permanente patient charts going back to the 1940s are stored in a San Francisco Bay Area facility and are readily accessible to researchers.

Also see: “Screening for Better Health: Enter the Computer

http://bit.ly/XQvXJC

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Experts highlight progress in HIV/AIDS research and quality of care

posted on November 30, 2011

By Laura Thomas

Heritage correspondent

Greg Millett, White House advisor, speaks at KP diversity conference in San Francisco.

Kaiser Permanente’s 34th Annual National Diversity Conference, held recently in San Francisco, culminated in the presentation of the HIV/AIDS Diversity Awards, along with White House policy advisor Greg Millett’s battlefront assessment of the 30-year war against the disease in the U.S.

Millett noted the year-by-year drop since the 1990s of new HIV cases and a decrease in the public’s alarm over the disease. He contrasted that success with the continuing problem of delivering adequate care for the poor and minorities in urban areas where the prevalence of HIV is still high.

Bringing care to these victims is crucial, he said, because many studies show that beginning to treat an infected person in the early stages of HIV reduces the risk of transferring it to another by 90 percent or more.

“The road to treatment in the U.S. is fraught with difficulties,” he told the audience. “This is nothing new to any of us.” Millett, who is also a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control, lauded the Kaiser Permanente study published in 2009 that showed the risk of dying from AIDS didn’t differ between ethnic groups when there was equal access to care.

“You don’t see that nationally,” he said. “Kaiser Permanente is doing a very good job of suppressing HIV. This is exactly what we would like to see happen nationally.”

KP’s HIV leader shares Millett’s visions

Michael Horberg, MD

Millett’s words were well-received by Dr. Michael Horberg, Kaiser Permanente’s national director for HIV/AIDS, who announced the Diversity Award winners and was on stage with Millett and Diane Gage-Lofgren, senior vice president for KP Brand Strategy, Communications and Public Relations (BSCPR).

Appointed to Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) in 2010, Horberg hopes to make Kaiser Permanente’s best practices a part of national policy. Practicing at Michael Reese and Northwestern Memorial hospitals in the Chicago area for 10 years before coming to California, he has spent most of his medical career in the fight against the disease.

He is one of those lucky people whose life both on and off the job is fueled by a strong sense of purpose. In the early 1980s, as the first patients infected by the HIV virus were being treated at Boston City Hospital where he was in his third year of medical school, he already knew he was gay, but it was still a little too early for him to declare himself.

“It was the fear of rejection, the fear of being ostracized, even in the medical community, of not being able to attract any patients,” he recalled.

AIDS outbreak spurs Horberg to action

Ironically, the onset of the AIDS crisis is what finally helped to liberate him. As patients with HIV symptoms, including some of his close friends, began coming to him in private practice, he realized stepping out of the closet would help them get the care they needed and allow him to be a more powerful advocate for specialized care.

The timing was good.

“There was no hiding any more. I was true to the world and it was true to me,” he wrote in California Medicine in 1997. “And it paid off in a number of ways. For one thing, because I was a gay doctor with a large gay and lesbian patient population, Northwestern Community Medical Group (affiliated with Northwestern Memorial Hospital) invited me to merge my practice with theirs.  And because I had a high patient satisfaction rating, managed care companies came courting as well.”

KP's Michael Horberg (fifth from right in front row) serves on Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA).

Dr. Horberg began specializing in HIV care in Chicago where he grew up. Early on, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. Both the science and the humanism involved appealed to him, and both values were part of his family heritage. His uncle was a physician and a great-aunt had attended medical school and practiced in the 19th century in Estonia and the Ukraine.

Being able to help his gay and lesbian brothers and sisters has fulfilled that early desire to meld technical skill with compassion. Especially early in the crisis “when there was a limit for what we could do for patients, really caring, really showing love was critical,” he said.

Research key to improving care

Both the science and the compassion have continued to motivate Dr. Horberg in his work: He was an early proponent of experimental drug trials and has devoted much of his research to improving the delivery of care as well as exploring the source of the disease.

Horberg was recruited by Kaiser Permanente for his work with HIV and was happy to leave the muggy hot summers of Chicago in 1996 for the Bay Area’s temperate climate. He worked briefly at South San Francisco before taking charge of the HIV/AIDS program at KP Santa Clara where he handled patients, began his work as a scientist in Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research while studying for a master’s degree in research (MAS) at the University of California at San Francisco.

He has since worked on numerous studies using data from the records of 50,000 HIV patients who have been treated by Kaiser Permanente since 1981. His studies have focused on many aspects of caring for HIV patients, from the management of antiretroviral drug therapy and allied infections to issues of ensuring quality of care and equal access to care.

Dr. Horberg collaborated on the study that sought to determine whether equal access to care would result in a similar outcome for HIV patients of different races. The study – lauded by Millett in his remarks to the Diversity Conference – was the first to break out statistics for Hispanics and it found no disparity in the clinical outcomes between white, black and Hispanic KP patients, with Hispanics having a slightly lower mortality rate.

Leading the charge for best HIV/AIDS care

During his years in California, he was a tireless advocate for HIV patients in his roles as physician, researcher and leader of initiatives to improve and standardize care. Horberg chaired the central research committee for the Northern California region, and led the HIV Interregional Initiative.

Last year, working with the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA) and other interested groups, the HIV Initiative developed 17 measures for quality HIV care – including patient retention, screening and prevention for infections, immunization, and initiation and monitoring of antiretroviral therapy – that are intended for nationwide implementation.

“We really have done a very good job,” he says of Kaiser Permanente.  “We can do better. We are not going to rest on our laurels. We know where there is room for improvement. . . We are willing to analyze our care. We are the first managed care organization to develop a set of care metrics. And from that we asked our other research questions that have led to policy changes. We have really compassionate care. We give a damn.”

Early this year, Dr. Horberg moved to Maryland to become executive director of research for the Mid-Atlantic States Permanente Medical Group. Dr. Horberg had to let go of seeing patients when he made his move to the east and that was hard to give up, but leading research, his other love, is also about people, he says. “The science we do at KP is the science of caring for patients and how to do that in the most effective way is really what we study.”

Fortunately, he left with his true love, husband Chip Brian Horberg, whom he married in 2008 while gay marriage was legal in California. The couple, whose birthdays are July 10 (Chip) and July 12 (Michael), were married July 11 under a traditional Jewish huppah on the rooftop of their condominium in San Francisco, surrounded by family and friends, including a large contingent of Kaiser Permanente colleagues.

This is the first of two articles about Kaiser Permanente’s response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. There’s more about KP’s history of taking care of HIV/AIDS patients at the Center for Total Health.

Next time: Kaiser Permanente’s early struggle to stand up to AIDS.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,