Kaiser Permanente and the Alliance of Health Care Unions

Hank Winter 2016

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Around the Regions (Winter 2016)

Southern California's Biohazards band, extending partnership tools into music-making. 

Newsy bits from the landscape of Kaiser Permanente


The Colorado region is improving patient care and saving millions by providing high-risk patients extra attention after discharge, leading to a reduction in readmission rates. In the Post Acute Care Transitions (PACT) program, nurse practitioners visit patients in their homes after discharge from a hospital or skilled nursing facility, giving them a chance to alter the patient’s care plan if needed. The PACT team has visited approximately 4,200 high-risk patients since the program began in January 2013. At that time, 22 percent of high-risk patients were readmitted within 30 days, at a cost of $11.7 million. The PACT team has reduced readmission rates by 50 percent, saving Kaiser Permanente approximately $6 million since the program began.


To make sure no good deed goes uncopied, the Georgia region launched a Spread and Sustain system to move best practices throughout the region—and showed off the results to KP’s board of directors at a UBT fair early last summer. Georgia took a spread blueprint from the Southern California region and fine-tuned it to meet its needs. Now its unit-based teams, sponsors and regional leaders identify projects with good spread potential, determine other locations where the new process could work, share the practice and check back to see how they’re being sustained. Several projects have been successfully spread region-wide—addressing such issues as hypertension, HPV vaccinations and lab specimen collection.


Hawaii is a beautiful place to live, but Kaiser Permanente members who live on the less-populated islands sometimes find it challenging to get the care they need. To address that, KP offers a special benefit called Travel Concierge Service. If health plan members need medical care that isn’t available on their island, KP assists them in traveling to the Moanalua Medical Center in Oahu or to a specialty care medical office. KP makes the travel arrangements and picks up the tab for travel, including airfare, shuttle service and discounted hotel rates. For minors who need specialty care, KP also pays for companion travel. “Our members love this service,” says Lori Nanone, a sales and account manager in the region.

Mid-Atlantic States

For several years, co-leads in the Mid-Atlantic States have compiled monthly reports of their UBT activities, goals and progress using Microsoft Word and Excel. Now, the region is rolling out a dashboard that automatically compiles the same information from UBT Tracker into an easy-to-reference SharePoint site, Kaiser Permanente’s new online social collaboration tool. The new dashboard will encourage more frequent updates to UBT Tracker and eliminate the need for co-leads to create separate documents, says Jennifer Walker, lead UBT consultant and improvement advisor. “Now the information we get is more timely and easier to assess,” Walker says. “Before, the information was up to a month old.”

Northern California

The Santa Rosa Medical Center Diversity Design committee is equipping employees with tools to help them provide better service to Spanish-speaking patients. The group, composed of labor and management, has been piloting a handout featuring a list of common Spanish phrases, such as ¿Necesita un intérprete? (“Do you need an interpreter?”), as well as instructions on using the phone interpreter system. The idea came from a Spanish-speaking patient on the facility’s Latino patient advisory committee, who recalled the time she was lost in the facility and no one could direct her in Spanish. The Spanish language flier is the latest in the committee’s work to help ensure all patients receive the same optimal service and care.


Unit-based teams in the Continuing Care Services department are focusing on improving the experience for some of Kaiser Permanente’s most vulnerable members: those in skilled nursing facilities or receiving home health, hospice or palliative care. Teams are focusing on ensuring better transitions for patients as they go from inpatient to ambulatory care. By identifying issues before they become problems, labor and management hope to coordinate care more effectively, reduce emergency department visits and cut down on outside medical costs.

Southern California

Harmony comes easily when you use the tools of partnership. Just ask the Biohazards, a band of union members and a manager that uses partnership principles to guide performances. “We call ourselves an LMP project,” says Mary Anne Umekubo, a clinical laboratory scientist and Regional Laboratory assistant director who sings and plays percussion and guitar. She is among six band members who represent a variety of departments, shifts and unions, including SEIU-UHW and UFCW Local 770. Performing for friends and colleagues, band members use consensus decision making to choose songs, interest-based problem solving to fix mistakes and the Rapid Improvement Model to tweak performances. “We’re from different departments,” says drummer Eric Cuarez, a regional courier driver and SEIU-UHW member. “We come together to play music.”

We're from different departments. We come together to play music.

Eric Cuarez
Drummer, regional courier driver, SEIU-UHW member
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