Kaiser Permanente Receives First CMS Health Equity Award

Organization Recognized for Commitment to Reducing Disparities for Medicare Recipients

Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest integrated health system, has received the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ inaugural Health Equity Award, which recognizes Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to reducing and eliminating disparities in health care quality and access for its patients receiving Medicare benefits.

Community partnerships such as with local barbershops in the Mid-Atlantic States Region helped bring care such as blood pressure checks directly to patients.

Kaiser Permanente’s longstanding commitment to equitable care has helped it become an industry leader in developing and implementing best practices, approaches and evidence-based medicine aimed at improving health equity outcomes. With this award, CMS has specifically recognized Kaiser Permanente’s Hypertension Program Improvement Process, which has significantly reduced disparities in blood pressure control rates across racial and ethnic groups, including among African-American Medicare members ages 18 to 85.

“Permanente physicians are dedicated to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive and affordable care to every one of our patients. Eliminating disparities is complex and requires reliable systems of care that support our interdisciplinary teams,” said Michael Kanter, MD, executive vice president of Quality and chief quality officer, The Permanente Federation, which represents the eight Permanente Medical Groups providing care to Kaiser Permanente patients.

“From 2009 to 2017,” Dr. Kanter said, “the percentage of Kaiser Permanente’s African-American Medicare members with controlled hypertension increased from 75.3 percent to 89.6 percent, a huge increase that has improved the quality of life – and even saved the lives – of thousands of people.”

Permanente physicians are dedicated to delivering high-quality, culturally responsive and affordable care to every one of our patients.”

— Michael Kanter, MD, chief quality officer, The Permanente Federation

Key elements of the organization’s approach included collecting and stratifying data to identify and prioritize health outcome disparities, upgrading clinical practice guidelines, and expanding educational resources available to Kaiser Permanente patients. Strong community partnerships play an important role in bringing care directly to communities in need, including offering blood pressure checks at beauty salons and barbershops at Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic States Region.

Patrick Courneya, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals, said: “Equity is not just a word we use to describe our ideals; it is the backbone of our work and woven into every strategy and tactic we deploy to provide personal and inclusive care to all of our members, and to spread those best practices across our organization so members can receive the same quality care no matter when, where or how they receive our services.”

As one of the nation’s first health care providers to racially integrate its hospitals and waiting rooms, as well as hire a diverse workforce, Kaiser Permanente and the Permanente Medical Groups have seven decades of experience promoting diversity, inclusion, and health equity. In 2017, Kaiser Permanente received the American Hospital Association’s Equity of Care Award, a recognition that highlighted the organization’s use of data-driven initiatives and electronic health record to target health disparities.

A version of this story originally appeared on KP Share.