Press Releases: Northern California
September 30, 2010
Electronic Health Records Offer Value for Businesses Too
An Article by Tom Carter, vice president, Sales and Broker Relations, Kaiser Permanente
There has been a great deal of discussion over the past few years about the importance of electronic health records in improving the quality of health care for patients — and rightly so.
With a fully functional EHR system, physicians, nurses and technicians have 24-hour access to a patient’s up-to-the minute medical history, which means treatment is more coordinated. EHRs also make prevention more of a reality by automatically calculating, for example, when a patient is due for a screening exam.
But the benefits of EHRs don’t stop at the hospital or medical office building door. Depending on their size, businesses can also benefit from the power of EHRs by working with health care providers and health insurers to obtain aggregated, high-level data to help encourage their employees to be healthy. The businesses must be large enough — 100 employees or more — so that this aggregated data does not reveal personal health information about individual employees.
With EHRs, health care providers and health insurers can arrange to provide employers with health information about their overall employee population — such as the percentage of employees who are current with their colorectal screenings, or the percentage who smoke, or have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. That is because the EHRs allow computers to collect and organize information across large numbers of people in real time.
Employers can then use this information to better support employee health needs through targeted workplace health programs and activities. For example, if an employer has a high percentage of employees who are overweight, it makes sense to have a workforce wellness program that addresses weight management — especially since they can track the effectiveness of the initiative by using the same high-level aggregated data.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System recently announced a comprehensive pilot workplace program with Kaiser Permanente that is designed to improve the health of employees at risk for diabetes — as well as overall employee health. (The pilot will be instituted this year at two CalPERS agencies: Solano County government employees and the faculty and staff of California State University at Northridge).
CalPERS is targeting diabetes because Kaiser Permanente can produce aggregated data from its electronic health record system, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, that shows that the prevalence of diabetes among Kaiser Permanente members working for CalPERS agencies is higher than it is for Kaiser Permanente’s California membership as a whole.
The CalPERS pilot program aims to improve the health of employees at the pilot agencies who are Kaiser Permanente members by motivating them to take a more active role in diabetes prevention. These employees will be encouraged to seek appropriate testing and take advantage of resources to improve their health, including telephone and online coaching.
Additionally, all CalPERS employees at the pilot agencies can participate in a range of wellness services, such as health-promotion classes, online programs and healthy-eating initiatives.
Thanks to the capabilities of EHRs, employers can learn more about the health needs of their overall employee population, and then use that information to help their employees be healthy. That’s not only good for the employees, it’s also good for business.
Tom Carter is a vice president of sales and broker relations for Kaiser Permanente.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. In 2008, Kaiser Permanente proudly directed approximately $1.17 billion to support community benefit programs and services through research, community-based health partnerships, and direct health coverage for low-income families and collaboration with community clinics, health departments and public hospitals. For more information, go to www.kp.org/newscenter.