Inside Kaiser Permanente and Intermountain's telehealth strategy

Kaiser Permanente and Intermountain were some of the earliest adopters of telemedicine and have been using virtual methods to improve health outcomes, lower medical cost and free up bed space. In a May 2022 Harvard Business Review article, Robert Pearl, former CEO of Oakland, Calif.-based Permanente Medical Group, and Brian Wayling, executive director of telehealth at Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare, share their system's strategies.

In an attempt to reduce costly and unnecessary emergency department visits, Kaiser Permanente patients have the option to access a 24/7 video health center in which they can be quickly connected with a physician to determine the next course of action. Intermountain Healthcare also offers a remote patient-monitoring program for COVID-19, which freed up almost 4,800 bed days in its first 14 months.  

Kaiser also uses telemedicine and wearable devices for chronically ill patients to help them manage their disease on their own time. It also gives patients the option to schedule virtual consultations with specialists, in which issues are solved 40 percent of the time. If further treatment is needed, an in-person visit is scheduled after the virtual portion. Intermountain runs a similar program in which patients can be connected virtually to neurologists and can be treated quickly without the need for travel. 

Kaiser Permanente also used telehealth to reduce inequalities in care access, and saw through offering virtual care to pregnant women battling addiction, perfect attendance rates to the program increased by 80 percent. This also reduced the need for neonatal intensive care, which can be expensive.

Mr. Pearl and Mr. Wayling advocate for a tele-driven system and argue that adopting key telehealth strategies can improve clinical quality, increase access to healthcare and reduce medical spending. 

Read the full report here.

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