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May 10, 2017

How Kaiser's CEO wants to make mental health care 'as predictable as heart disease'

Daily Briefing

In a recent interview with Modern Healthcare's Dave Barkholz, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson discussed how the system is breaking down the stigma around mental health issues and redesigning mental health care delivery.

How to address health inequity in your community

Breaking down stigma

According to Tyson, Kaiser is prioritizing mental health awareness this year as part of a broader effort to combat mental health stigma and change how people think about the issue. We need to "move the paradigm from people thinking of it in less-than-desirable ways ... to seeing it as common and as predictable as heart disease and cancer," Tyson said.  

Barkholz drew attention to Kaiser's mental health awareness campaign in particular, noting that it "come[s] across more as public service announcements than marketing or promotional pieces." And according to Tyson, that's intentional. "They are intended to be more of a public service announcement showing that we are working for the greater good, not for the self-interest of Kaiser Permanente," Tyson said. "We are a large, not-for-profit mega-system that has integrity and credibility, and so, in this case, we're leveraging the bigger message that is intended for the entire population, not just focused at Kaiser Permanente."

Redesigning mental health care

As part of that effort, Tyson said Kaiser is "looking at redesigning our care delivery system by integrating mental health services into our primary-care settings." For instance, Tyson cited a Colorado program—one of several Kaiser mental health initiatives—where the health system integrated behavior health, psychiatry, and psychological services into the primary care visit. Tyson compared the setup to the way a primary care doctor might ask an orthopedic surgeon in the building to evaluate a patient who comes in with knee pains.

And Kaiser is also "looking at the other end of the spectrum," Tyson added, "which is comprehensive care and services, hospitalization, long-term therapeutic care." The organization is also considering how it wants "to get involved with mental health research going forward" and initiating conversations around the issue with other organizations, he said.

Tyson added that while Kaiser is "still in the learning phase on mental health," there's a lot of evidence tying mental health issues and physical health issues—so Kaiser is making upstream investments in social determinants of health. Areas such exercise, food, sleep, and stress management are "opportunities" where Kaiser can engage with members outside of the conventional health care space, he said. For instance, Tyson noted that Kaiser runs farmers markets "around the country and, particularly, in communities that are generally missing some of the infrastructure like grocery stores" (Barkholz, Modern Healthcare, 4/29).

How to address health inequity in your community

With the shift in health care to focus on optimizing the health of individuals and communities, health care organizations are creating new strategies to address health care disparities in access and patient outcomes.

Advisory Board has created the Health Disparities Initiative, which provides actionable resources on a series of strategic imperatives and special topics to achieve equity of care. Interested in seeing research or resources that address your biggest health equity problems?

Download our resource, "Building Community Partnerships to Reduce Disparities," which includes studies featuring providers who have successfully partnered with community organizations to address health disparities and social determinants of health. You'll also find tools that can guide your organization’s community partnership strategy.

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