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Press Releases: Northern California

November 16, 2005

"E-Mail Your Doctor" Bringing Direct, Secure And Free Access To 3.2 Million Kaiser Permanente Members

Service goes live today in Northern California -- newest of multiple online tools

OAKLAND, Calif. – Beginning today, Kaiser Permanente is launching a new service to 3.2 million members in Northern California - more than 1 percent of the U.S. population - which enables them to communicate free of charge by secure e-mail with most of the 6,000 physicians in The Permanente Medical Group.

"E-Mail Your Doctor" allows patients to e-mail their doctors with routine or non-urgent medical questions and receive answers generally within two business days. When physicians reply to questions, patients will receive a message at their personal e-mail address directing them to their kaiserpermanente.org secure mailbox. All e-mail communication becomes part of a member's medical record.

"Information technology is a powerful and under-utilized tool in the delivery of health care today," said Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO and executive director of The Permanente Medical Group. "Kaiser Permanente physicians have been using information technology to serve patients for nearly a decade. With e-mail and our other online tools we're bringing the power of information technology more directly and personally to patients. We're giving them more flexibility, control and convenience in how they receive and manage their health care."

At its launch, "E-Mail Your Doctor" provides a link to primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, OB/GYNs and specialists. Next year the service will include pediatricians and mental health providers, and adults caring for a dependent parent will be able to communicate with the parent's physician. In addition, Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California can expect this service in 2006. Eventually patients will be able to access portions of their medical record, including their current medications and information about past office visits.

"E-mail Your Doctor" is the newest of multiple online tools offered to members at no charge by Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Other online tools currently available seven days a week, 24 hours a day enable members to:

  • Request prescription refills and have them mailed postage free.
  • Schedule routine appointments with primary care physicians and view, change or cancel future appointments.
  • Choose or change a primary care physician by viewing physicians' individual home pages.
  • See lab results released by physicians for most tests and screenings including those for blood cell count and cholesterol level.
  • Retrieve a wealth of information about health and wellness, prescription medication, and non-prescription items such as vitamins, herbs and dietary supplements.
  • Participate in interactive healthy lifestyle management programs on topics such as weight control, nutrition planning, stress reduction and smoking cessation.

"This new service is a milestone," Pearl said of the scope and nature of "E-Mail Your Doctor" in Northern California. "It's not a concept, it's a reality. It should set a new standard -- and a new expectation among patients -- for the delivery of health care across the nation."

E-mail access between physicians and patients is part of the ongoing implementation of KP HealthConnect, Kaiser Permanente's electronic medical record system that will serve 8.2 million members nationwide. Eventually patients will be able to access portions of their medical record, including their current medications and information about past office visits. Secure online messaging and online patient access are also available in Kaiser Permanente's Hawaii and Northwest regions.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente, founded in 1945, is a non-profit integrated health care organization, with physicians, nurses and staff working in collaboration to provide high quality care to patients and address the health care needs of communities served by the organization. The Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region serves almost 3.2 million members. It includes 5,000 physicians in The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG) and about 54,000 employees. The region has 19 major medical centers. Each year, Kaiser Permanente donates about $300 million to a variety of community programs and agencies in Northern California.