Health Care That Targets Unmet Social Needs

Targeting the social determinants of health is a critical piece in improving an individual’s overall well-being and total health, according to an article written by a couple Kaiser Permanente physicians in Southern California. The article appeared recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors say this doesn’t mean Kaiser Permanente should, for instance, build affordable housing for their homeless patients. But it does mean taking on the responsibility for the full scope of their patients’ needs, consistent with Kaiser Permanente’s social mission and business imperative to improve the health of the communities it serves. Kaiser Permanente has begun to bolster that effort by aiming to target their members’ unmet social needs as part of their overall health care. After all, social, environmental, and behavioral factors account for an estimated 60% of health, compared with just 10% from factors traditionally defined as “clinical.” And research shows that nations that focus on food insecurity, housing, transportation, and other “nonmedical” factors spend less overall on health care while improving quality and quantity of life.

 To achieve this goal, Kaiser Permanente is partnering with existing community organizations, identify gaps in linking with those resources, and (in the process) demonstrate the value of directly addressing the social determinants of health.

You can see the article in full here and learn more about a pilot project the organization is doing with Health Leads,  a social enterprise organization that aims “to address all patients’ basic resource needs as a standard part of quality care.”


Categories: Safety Net

This Week in Total Health

This week, the Center hosted a three day private board meeting, so we’re a little light on photos. Behind the scenes, though, it was an exciting an active week.

We did have an amazing visit from Leadership America – Leadership Women (@LeadershipAmer), a great organization connecting women in leadership roles across states, ages, and industries. Talk about innovation!

Leadership America

Leadership America Visits CTH

Community Catalyst (@HealthPolicyHub) also visited to learn about the center as they consider an consumer-facing center of their own. Such an exciting time and so glad to be helpful to others beginning this journey.

Community Catalyst

Community Catalyst

To see or download photos from this week, visit our Flickr page.

Employers As Innovation Partners

Earlier this month at the Center for Total Health, Kaiser Permanente invited members of its Employer Innovation Councilmy preg to participate in discussions on innovative employee health initiatives. One such initiative is KP My Pregnancy, a pilot program created by Kaiser Permanente and Comcast for expectant mothers and their families. The on-demand maternity education program has three main parts: an immersive TV app, a web-based video portal, and library of over 150 new, short form videos to assist new mothers with planning their pregnancy. The program launched in August 2015, with additional corporate partners that included Lowes and IBM, as well as members in Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest region. Expectant mothers start by entering information to personalize the TV app experience – e.g., their due date and notification preferences.  Then, content specific to milestones in their pregnancy is made available for viewing. Since last year’s launch, more than 200 people have used the TV app which is available to Comcast Xfinity users. More than 6,500 additional video views have been counted on the My Pregnancy video portal which is available to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection. In fact, 28 percent of video views were watched on mobile phones and tablets. As the initiative gains more feedback from participants, the team will better understand how to help consumers proactively engage in their health using short form video and to use technology to make physicians more productive in informing & motivating patients.

For more information on the My Pregnancy  program, check out the full article on KP Share.

This Week in Total Health: The End of an Era

As another busy week comes to a close at the Center for Total Health, our team would like to first take a moment to thank Yen Greene (@YenGreene), who has been with us for almost five years, for all of her hard work and dedication. She’s a remarkable person and colleague, and though she isn’t going far, she will be missed. Our loss is Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atantic’s gain.

On Thursday, the Center for Health Design hosted Health Design Insights, an evening for health care architects and designers. The featured speakers were Jeff Shub, MD, of GapingVoid (@gapingvoid); Patrick Schultz, AIA, EDAC, LEED, AP, of HKS Architects (@HKSArchitects); and Barbara Huelat, FASID, AAID, EDAC, of Huelat Davis (@HuelatDavis). As always, it’s inspiring to witness a group of people dedicating their incredible talents and intelligence to the health of others.

Center for Health Design - Health Design Insights

Center for Health Design – Health Design Insights

As those who have been to the center might know, we installed a pedestrian counter outside along the Metropolitan Branch Trail to track pedestrian traffic as part of a network of counters across Washington, DC. (Learn more about that project here.) This week, the counter got a new battery (thank you, Tracy Hadden Loh!).

New battery for the EcoCounter pedestrian counter

New battery for the EcoCounter pedestrian counter

Find all of this week’s pictures here. And, for posterity, some of our favorite pictures of Yen over the years. Thanks for all the laughs, Yen!


National Healthcare Decisions Day: April 16

In recognition of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, Christina Kerby, a senior communications consultant with Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute,  spoke with people who have recently participated in Life Care Planning along with their facilitators about why these conversations are important for them and their families.

 Janie’s Story

Janie is a Kaiser Permanente employee in Northern California

I came home five years ago and discovered that my husband had passed away. My husband and I had shared our desires with each other so since he is no longer with me I felt it very important to let my daughter know what I desired in terms of my health. My daughter and I received an email regarding the Advance Care Planning Class held here at Kaiser Permanente. I filled out the advance directive and am very confident that my daughter will follow it to the letter. Now that everything has been discussed and final arrangements have been put in place, it will help to make the process easier.

Advance Care Planning is the way to go so that my loved ones won’t be burdened wondering what to do and how to handle my final transition. I have expressed how they should handle everything. To have this document in place, and my mortuary fees paid in full makes me feel that I have taken a lot of unnecessary stress off of my family.

Meri’s Story

Meri is a senior consultant with the Care Management Institute and a Life Care Planning facilitator

 Advance care planning is an important part of wellness, and we see it as a preventive service, just like mammography screening. We offer life care planning workshops for our employees because we feel that all adults regardless of age can benefit from thinking about and discussing what their own health care decisions would be if they are unable to speak for themselves due to a serious and/or sudden health crisis. It’s never too early to start having these important conversations.

I remember Janie and her daughter from the workshop. Janie told us she is a “planner” type of a person. So it makes sense that she would want to plan the end of her life as well! Janie, by having these conversations with her daughter and family, will help them to be prepared and minimize potential uncertainty, guilt and possible conflict between loved ones when the time comes.

Facilitating these workshops brings me a sense of pride that we are helping KP employees begin to think about how they want to live at the end of their lives, and share their wishes with their loved ones. We encourage everyone to choose a health care agent who would speak for you if you become unable to communicate your wishes.

 Matt’s Story

Matt is a retired military veteran married to a Kaiser Permanente member in Colorado

My wife is starting to have some memory problems. We were in the Memory Clinic here in Colorado, and Kay (our social worker) asked if we would be interested in Life Care Planning, and we said yes. We both needed to update our wills and we considered a living will part of that. It was a very convenient time to go through this.

The process was a little awkward at first because of the types of questions you have to think about. What creature comforts do you want at the end of life? How long do you want to be kept alive if you’re incapacitated? My wife and I travel a lot. What happens if we’re both in an accident? With Kay’s background and experience she was able to lead us in how to think about and anticipate those things.

No one wants to think about dying or being incapacitated. But we’ve had other family members go through this and it helped us think about our own wishes. I had a grandfather live for 10 years after a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. We all took turns taking care of him, and it was a strain on the family. In my wife’s case, when her parents became ill one person handled all the decisions and everyone else felt left out. My wife and I talked about how she would want to be taken care of. I’m an only child, and with my wife’s deteriorating health and memory, I will need to find someone else to be my health care agent.

It’s something that’s hard to get people to think about, especially younger people. In our case we’re in our sixties and early 70’s, but it’s something that’s on our mind.

Kay’s Story

Kay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the Kaiser Permanente Memory Clinic in Colorado and a First Steps Facilitator and Instructor for Life Care Planning

I worked in hospice for 8 and a half years as a social worker before coming to Kaiser Permanente. One of the things that I observed countless times in my career in hospice was the difference that having an advance directive in place made between a patient having a “good death,” or a very “difficult death.” If there was no directive in place, and/or if there had never been any end of life discussions between the patient and their family members, things could become intense. Families often felt like they had to “play God” and guess whether or not their loved one would want interventions such as feeding tubes, ventilators and other aggressive measures during times of crisis. It was really difficult on so many levels for everyone involved in that process.

I’m a huge advocate of advance directives. In our Memory Clinic, we get to provide a very unique service because many of the patients that we work with are on the brink of lacking capacity to complete their advance directive, and we are able to assist them with that process in a timely manner. That feels great from my end, and is a huge gift to their families, as well.”

For resources and information about Life Care Planning, visit

Categories: Blog & Bloggers, Guest Blogger

Even in Health, Money Talks

Last November, the  Center for Total Health commissioned a survey exploring the factors that comprise total health, as well as the barriers to achieving it. Responses from over 1,200 people of all ages and demographics made clear that stress and finances are the key factors impacting total health.

An individual’s financial situation ranked third with our respondents, behind physical and mental health, as a contributor to theirsmall infograph total health. In fact, 75 percent of survey respondents said that their financial situation is “very important” to their total health. Moreover, they believe that an improved financial situation would reduce their stress and improve their access to medical care.

In addition, respondents list stress as one of the main barriers to total health. Over 40 percent list stress from family or work as a hinderance to their total health. More than 40 percent of respondents thought that insurance-provided  stress management programs would be a key to managing stress.

For more details about the report, click here.

Kaiser Permanente also provides resources on stress at

Five Years of Total Health

On Monday, the Center for Total Health celebrated its 5th birthday. So much has happened over these years.

A quick poll of the team unanimously named the original Kaiser Shipyard “Rosies” as the most memorable visitors of our first five years. These incredible pioneers stopped by a couple years ago and regaled us with stories of working for Henry J. Kaiser (“great boss”), full lives (houses rented to The Mamas & The Papas, great loves, amazing travels), and changing times and technology. Our team makes sure to laugh every day, but it’s fair to say the two hours we spent with the Rosies were among the most joyful and warm of these five years.

Original Kaiser Shipyard Rosies with the Kaiser Permanente team

Original Kaiser Shipyard Rosies with the Kaiser Permanente team

We’ve had so many great meetings, events, and tours that it was hard to pick just a few to highlight. After much debate, a few prevailed as very memorable. They included:

Our team remains excited by the breadth and depth of conversations happening here. There are so many wonderful people we’ve met and events we’ve hosted that we could never list them all. If you have favorites, please share them in the comments! Our whole team thanks everyone who made this total health journey possible. Here’s to the next #CTHFive!

Thanks for five great years! (Don't worry, the cupcakes are small and met Health Picks criteria!).

Thanks for five great years! (Don’t worry, the cupcakes are small and met Health Picks criteria!).

Special thanks to the team that helped get the doors open in 2011: Holly Potter, Sean Chai, Danielle Cass, Trish Doherty, Eric Saltmarsh, Wendy Lee, Diane Gage-Lofgren, Faye Shahai, and countless others. Your hard work and long hours haven’t been forgotten.

This Week in Total Health: The Many Faces of Innovation

It can be easy to think of innovation as technology and gadgets, but this week we witnessed a lot of human innovation. Guests this week included our Employer Innovation Council and Labor Management Partnership (@LMPTalk), both incredibly innovative groups that drive our organization to be its best.


Labor Management Partnership Regional Co-Leads (Day 1)


Labor Management Partnership Regional Co-Leads (Day 2)

As always, the Center’s Healthy Picks approved menus fueled days of hard work and collaboration for attendees. Seeing people enjoy tasty, healthy food never gets old for our team – it’s one of our tiny innovations. :)

Lunch is served

Lunch is served

To see all of the photos from this week at the Center for Total Health, please click here.

This Week in Total Health


Another great week at the Center for Total Health! We were thrilled to meet with Whitney Austin Gray, PhD, LEED AP (@Whits333), and Jessica Rose Cooper,

CTH Team with Whitney Austin Gray and Jessica Rose Cooper

CTH Team with Whitney Austin Gray and Jessica Rose Cooper

Well AP, AP ID+C, to learn about WELL Building Standards. These new standards challenge us all to think about the health of our every day work environments, from air quality and temperature to food options. It was inspirational to consider all of the ways we can continue to bring total health to our team and our visitors every day.

We were also thrilled to welcome several colleagues from our National Customer Analytics & Reporting Team. These data-driven folks had so much great information to share with us about population health management and data driven work. And on top of that, they were fun to spend an hour with too!

Kaiser Permanente Customer Analytics & Reporting Team with Peter and Erin Meade

Kaiser Permanente Customer Analytics & Reporting Team with Peter and Erin Meade

Three of our team members also had the amazing experience of attending the first ever Light City Baltimore (@LightCityBmore) this week for the two day LightCityU (@lightcityu) Health Innovation program, where we debuted our new Virtual Reality Total Health Tour of Baltimore. It was amazing to see Baltimorians experience the tour, and great to hear their amazing, creative ideas for the future of the experience and the future of Baltimore.

See all the photos from this week on our Flickr page.