Everyone is at risk for getting COVID-19 if they are exposed to the virus. However, people 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions, including heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, are at highest risk for severe illness.
At Kaiser Permanente, we’ve taken steps to ensure our high-risk members can safely get care during the pandemic. We are focused on providing the right care at the right time in the right way for all members.
“The pandemic, in fact, has been an opportunity for Kaiser Permanente to elevate the programs we already had in place to help our members with chronic health conditions and unmet social needs,” said Wendolyn Gozansky, MD, vice president and chief quality officer for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado, who holds a master’s degree in public health.
Dr. Gozansky shares 3 significant ways we’re using our connected care model — with our doctors, specialists, and health plan all working together and using the same electronic health record — to provide safe, high-quality care to those at highest risk during the pandemic.
Kaiser Permanente has always been a leader in video visits, phone visits, and home visits, so we’ve been reaching out to our members, especially seniors and those with chronic conditions, to provide them with options for getting care in ways that don’t require them to come into the medical office building.
Sometimes, those visits become about more than just providing care. During a recent video visit, the older sister of a 93-year-old patient commented that she had “never had a physical in a rocking chair before.” The visit was a great way to create social interaction because the sisters were isolated in their assisted living facility to avoid exposure to COVID-19.
We want to lay eyes on these members to make sure they’re doing OK.
For people who do come into our facilities, we’ve made them exceptionally safe by introducing a number of changes. We now have greeters asking about symptoms and checking temperatures. We’ve removed furniture and added clear signage to ensure we don’t have people standing closely together in lines or sitting right next to each other in waiting rooms.
We want to meet our members’ needs while at the same time avoid people congregating. These changes and many others are enabling us to care for our members in an efficient manner while maintaining physical distancing protocols within our facilities.
Before the pandemic, Kaiser Permanente had developed a way to scan our electronic health record and self-reported health assessments to identify members who might be in need of extra care or might have unmet social needs. So, one of the first things we did during the pandemic was to reach out to those members we had identified over the past year — just a simple check-in to make sure they had what they needed.
These proactive outreaches, or what we we’re calling “caring conversations,” have been wonderful for our most vulnerable members. They feel connected and listened to. The conversations are another tool to help make sure we’re thinking about and addressing what matters most to our members.