HONOLULU — Virtual health care options have become critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizations that serve low-income and uninsured patients have dramatically increased their use of virtual care, or telehealth, to reduce potential exposures. Through its support of the Virtual Care Innovation Network, Kaiser Permanente is bringing together safety net organizations — community-based organizations such as federally qualified health centers, or FQHCs, and others — to redesign care so that virtual care models can continue beyond the pandemic.
In Hawaii, Kaiser Permanente has donated a total of $143,000 to 4 safety net organizations that are focused on expanding virtual care to low-income and homeless communities across the state. Community Clinic of Maui and Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center will each receive a $57,000 grant. Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services will receive a $12,000 grant, and West Hawaii Community Health Center will receive a $17,000 grant.
Overall, Kaiser Permanente has awarded $2.37 million to 59 safety net organizations across its footprint to ensure that the people with low incomes who are uninsured and benefit from their care have continued access to virtual care.
“The Virtual Care Innovation Network funding has helped our health centers in Hawaii expand access to virtual care through homeless outreach programs and also street medicine programs,” said Robert Hirokawa, DrPH, chief executive officer of the Hawaii Primary Care Association. “The grant has helped health centers bring care to their patient’s doorstep, thus reducing barriers to access and addressing digital equity for vulnerable patients.”
“Virtual care has the potential to dramatically enhance access to high-quality care for underserved populations across our state,” said John Yang, MD, president and medical director for the Hawaii Permanente Medical Group. “We deeply appreciate the work of these safety net organizations to bridge this need in our communities and help achieve health equity for the people of Hawaii.”
Shifting to virtual care during COVID-19 required safety net organizations to adopt new technologies, overhaul workflows, and redefine staff roles in an expedited timeframe. The Virtual Care Innovation Network will enable these organizations to learn from peers and experts, test new approaches, accelerate the work they have already started, and develop approaches to sustain virtual care delivery into the future.
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve almost 12.5 million members in 8 states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists, and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery, and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, and the support of community health.