The Center for Total Health hosts third-annual Better Together Health

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From left to right: Jayne O’Donnell (Moderator), Laura Seeff, MD, Alan Balch, PhD, John Bulger, DO, Michael Kanter, MD


On May 24, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health hosted All Systems Go! Closing the Gaps in Cancer Care, the third-annual Better Together Health event, led by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Council for Accountable Physician Practices (CAPP). The event highlighted patient stories, representing how coverage and accountable healthcare systems can improve survival and reduce morbidity for people living with complex conditions like cancer.

Laura Fegraus, Executive Director of CAPP led opening remarks with an overview of the state of cancer care in America. She presented research on what physicians and patients value, with evidence-based medicine, doctor-patient relationships, and care coordination topping each list. “Patients aren’t getting what they need,” she says, stressing the importance of coordinated care. “We are not there yet, and that’s why we’re here today.”

Robert Pearl, MD, Chair of CAPP (@RobertPearlMD), provided contextual framework for the event’s discussion of gaps in American health care, citing his recently published book, Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care—and Why We’re Usually Wrong. “If we cannot lower the cost increase [in health care] and do it through better quality, coordination, technology and leadership, the system will get disrupted. This is the time to change.”

Danielle Carnival, PhD, Deputy Director of the Biden Foundation’s Cancer Initiative provided a sense of hope, urgency, and change in the approach to cancer care by encouraging partnerships. Discussing racial and socioeconomic disparities, she stated: “Culturally appropriate cancer outreach efforts are needed to reach people where they are.” Dr. Carnival alluded to Cancer Moonshot in the goals of The Biden Foundation’s Cancer Initiative, which she says will “break down silos that stand as barriers for patients.”

After viewing two patient stories: Hunter’s of Geisinger Health System and Daria’s of Kaiser Permanente, Jayne O’Donnell of USA Today moderated a panel discussion featuring Alan Balch, PhD, CEO of the Patient Advocate Foundation, John Bulger, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Population Health, Geisinger Health System, Michael Kanter, MD, Medical Director of Quality and Clinical Analysis, Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and Laura Seeff, MD, Director of the Office of Health Systems Collaboration, CDC.

Dr. Kanter said the detection of residual cancer in Daria’s case and so many others is “the obligation of every [PMG] physician to look at the whole patient.” In the case of barriers for change in the current health care system, he said, “There’s issues of will and physician leadership.” Dr. Bulger agreed that “physicians need to coordinate care, rather than work against each other.”

Addressing a lack of data use, Dr. Balch called on physicians to harness data. “Data creates evidence to drive action, linking science to prevention,” Dr. Seeff said. Referring to the researchable data on preventable cancer deaths, Richard Wender, MD, Chief Cancer Control Officer, ACS, stated an increase in survival rates requires “a need to invest in a disproportionate way what is proven to work.”

Dr. Seeff reminded that in “cancer survivorship, it’s key to remember the human element.” There are several factors blocking patients’ access to cancer, outside of treatment, such as logistics, transportation, and food security, among others, Dr. Balch warned.

Office of the National Coordinator Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Technology Reform John Fleming, MD, gave a keynote address on policy. His suggestion that “Every American should have a single, unified electronic head record available in the cloud,” from anywhere, at all times, for all involved physicians to access was met with approval from event audience.

While the outlook on American healthcare is uncertain, the panel and speakers are hopeful. They agreed with Dr. Kanter that for now, “Nothing is more important than the issue of health care access and coverage.” For more information on Better Together Health, click here.

Preview: Better Together Health Returns to CTH

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Next week, the Council of Accountable Physician Practices (@accountableDOCS) will host the second in a series of Better Together events at the Center for Total Health. The program will focus on patient expectations accountable physician practices.

The transformation of American health care means more than reducing costs and improving quality scores. Healthcare systems have to focus on closing the gap between what patients actually want and what they are experiencing, especially for those with chronic illness. How can we bring true accountability to the system? The Council of Accountable Physician Practices and the Bipartisan Policy Center invite you to hear patients and doctors tell their stories of what patient-centered care really looks like.

To attend in person or gain access to the live webcast, REGISTER HERE.

The first event, focused on technology-enabled interactions between patients and physicians. Two of the personal patient stories shared at the event – Emma, a baby with severe burns, and Karen, an oncology patient- can be seen here.

If you have questions about this year’s event, please contact Elizabeth Keating via this link.


Reducing Health Disparities in Hypertension Care for African Americans

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3KeystoCombatingHealthDisparitiesMichelle, 55, an African American Kaiser Permanente member in Southern California, was disheartened when she learned that she had high blood pressure. But her outlook changed with the encouragement of her doctor who worked with her to develop a diet and exercise regimen.

Michelle was grateful for the support.

“Even in my visits when I started the weight loss, she was very encouraging,” she said. “That makes you want to lose a little more and do the best you can. I think that I started doing some of these things so by the time I came back she would notice a difference.”

Michelle has successfully reduced her blood pressure, lost over 20 pounds, and built a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

More than 40 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure, a rate that is one of the highest in the world.

More than 40 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure, a rate that is one of the highest in the world.

African Americans consistently have lower rates of hypertension control than whites, a higher prevalence of high blood pressure, and are more likely to develop hypertension at a younger age. In addition to genetic, environmental, social, and lifestyle factors, researchers believe that disparities in health care quality are driving these differences.

A new Kaiser Permanente Policy Story from the Institute for Health Policy highlights recent measures implemented in Kaiser Permanente facilities to treat African American patients with hypertension. It discusses how these efforts have led to improved care through increased access, better patient/provider communication, support in lifestyle changes, practice of evidence-based medicine, and use of health information technology (HIT).

Another effort is a $2.55 million grant to the American Heart Association Initiative to address high blood pressure among African Americans in two U.S. cities (Atlanta and San Diego) over three years. The program will depend upon community-based efforts to track blood pressure readings between community clinic workers, volunteer health mentors, doctors, and patients to create a model that can be replicated in communities across the country.

Another Kaiser Permanente initiative known as “ALL/PHASE” – that includes the use of three low-cost medications to reduce heart attacks and strokes – is aimed at reducing disparities in cardiovascular disease among low-income diabetics over the age of 50.

“It takes awareness and community engagement, gaining buy-in from leaders, integrating disparities work into quality improvement projects, and spreading best practices,” said Murray Ross, PhD, vice president with Kaiser Permanente and director of the Institute for Health Policy. “An increased focus on health disparities will help to reduce the occurrences of health inequities and inequalities, ensuring that all patients receive high quality health care.”

IHI Summit Excursion to the Center for Total Health

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IHI Summit attendees visit the Center for Total Health, hosted by Dr. Ed Ellison.

IHI Summit attendees visit the Center for Total Health, hosted by Dr. Ed Ellison.

Today, the Center for Total Health hosted an excursion for attendees of the 15th annual Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) International Summit on Improving Patient Care. Ed Ellison, MD, executive director of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, was joined by IHI Fellow and Kaiser Permanente  member Gilbert Salinas, BS, MPA, for a vibrant discussion on improving care through patient engagement and feedback.

Dr. Ed Ellison and Gilbert Salinas, BS, MPA

Ed Ellison, MD, and Gilbert Salinas, BS, MPA

Thanks to all who attended, with special thanks to Dr. Ellison and Gilbert for leading the conversation.

Personal Stories of Diabetes Diagnosis, Management

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In honor of American Diabetes Month, Kaiser Permanente’s popular Care Stories blog is highlighting patients’ stories of their diagnosis and learning to manage their disease.

Terry McMaster shares his experience of being surprised at his diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Initially, he didn’t pay much attention to what it might mean. After attending an educational class and learning the debilitating effects diabetes can have on the kidneys, eyes, brain and limbs, he began taking it very seriously. Hear more of McMaster’s story, including how he learned to manage his disease and be a real presence in his grandchildren’s lives, in the video below.

More on McMaster’s story can be found on the Care Stories site.

Breast Cancer: What Happens After Diagnosis?

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During this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Total Health Radio is featuring a three-part series on the topic.  This week, the episode explores what happens after a person is diagnosed with breast cancer.  It can be an overwhelming experience, affecting the person physically, emotionally and socially.  In this podcast, we hear from an oncologist as well as a breast cancer survivor.

You can listen to all the shows on iTunes or Stitcher.  And for more information about Total Health Radio, visit its website:

New Weekly Podcast Series Brings Total Health to Your Fingertips…and Mobile Devices

By | Audio, Experts, Healthy Living, Mobility / Mobile Health, Patient's Voice, Podcast | No Comments

85245_Total_Health_Radio_v2In a recent episode of Kaiser Permanente’s new podcast series, Total Health Radio, guest Julie Sutherland, MD, from Kaiser Permanente Colorado, describes some of the unusual symptoms of heart attacks in women, which include “jaw pain, shoulder pain … shortness of breath, sweating.”

“You know what you just described to me?” replied the episode’s host, Joyce Gottesfeld, MD. “A hot flash!”

“Good point,” Dr. Sutherland replied. “It’s hard to distinguish sometimes!”

Officially launched on Oct. 16, Total Health Radio is Kaiser Permanente’s national foray into the world of podcasting, delivering motivating stories, valuable information and important health tips through a series of engaging conversations with featured guests.

The podcast series will cover a wide range of topics — especially women’s and family health — with the help of physicians, health experts and patients, who will share their experiences dealing with and overcoming health challenges.

Total Health Radio will feature rotating hosts, one of whom is Dr. Gottesfeld, an ob-gyn who has been practicing with Kaiser Permanente Colorado for 17 years.

“I love to educate women about their health, their bodies and the changes they are going to go through over the course of their lives,” said Dr. Gottesfeld. “I’m excited about Total Health Radio — reaching more people and really getting information out there in a way that’s engaging and can help people take care of themselves.”

Total Health Radio features programs about family health, women’s heart health and developing awareness of teen dating violence. Future topics will reflect Kaiser Permanente’s belief in total health — mind, body, and spirit — and will discuss such matters as:

  • breast cancer — risk, diagnosis and treatment, and recovery
  • healthy sleep
  • caffeine and kids
  • five things to know about flu season
  • mindfulness

The podcasts are free and available through mobile devices and personal computers at Kaiser Permanente’s recently launched website, Total Health Radio, as well as iTunes. Soon, it also will be available on the podcast-distribution platform Stitcher.

At, listeners can view show summaries, explore additional resources on featured topics, and check out bonus clips from shows.  You can listen to clips and sneak previews from all shows currently published on Soundcloud.

Fighting Childhood Obesity: One Story of How it Can Be Done

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Kaiser Permanente’s Care Stories blog is featuring interviews with young people who struggled with obesity and made the changes necessary to get to a healthy weight — adopting behaviors that promote nutritious eating and active lifestyles. One of these stories, highlighted below, is of Josie Clayton, who was diagnosed as pre-diabetic at the age of 15. Clayton joined a pediatric healthy lifestyle program and went on to lose 60 pounds.

For more inspiration, check out all the other personal stories highlighted at the Care Stories blog.

The Value of Being an Engaged Patient

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It’s easy to wonder, especially when we are sick or dealing with a health issue, if we are doing all we can to be our own best health advocate.

This Thursday, U.S. News and World Report will host a TweetChat about patient engagement featuring Kaiser Permanente physician Ted Eytan, MD.

Dr. Eytan (@tedeytan on Twitter), physician director here at the Center for Total Health for The Permanente Federation, will join a panel of experts to talk about a patient’s role in his or her own hospital and health experience. Panelists will discuss how patients can empower themselves to remain informed and engaged in their treatment.

Expected topics include patient empowerment regarding electronic health records, having candid conversations with one’s doctor, knowing how to maximize medical appointments, and knowing what questions to ask.

The TweetChat will take place Thursday, July 25, from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern time (11 a.m. to noon Pacific). Follow the hashtag #PatientChat to participate in the conversation.

Sun Safety: One Man’s Story of UV Exposure and Melanoma

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July is UV Safety Month, and over on the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories Blog, they are sharing the story of one man’s close calls with melanoma.

Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer, often caused by too much time in the sun. UV radiation from sun exposure can cause skin cells to become abnormal and then grow out of control, affecting the surrounding tissues. Risk for melanoma is higher for people with fair skin, many atypical moles, or a family history of the disease.

Caught early, melanoma is highly treatable. If detected when the melanoma is just in the skin, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. If not caught until it has spread to other organs like the brain or bones, however, the five-year survival rate plummets to 15 percent — so early detection is the goal.

The Care Stories Blog features the story of Mac McIntyre (see video above), who was diagnosed with melanoma several times and now undergoes regular skin checks every six months. In his interview, he extols the importance of regular body checks and visits with his diligent doctor as part of his ongoing prevention plan.

You can read more about UV and sun safety here, courtesy of the American Cancer Society.