From prototype to reality : the newest medical offices at Kaiser Permanente Georgia

The “airport test” for me is what happens when someone notices I am with Kaiser Permanente from my credentials and make a comment about it (health care is an emotional thing, after all). I always make sure to follow the comment with a , “why do you feel that way?” On arrival to Atlanta, the comment I received was one about wishing the person was a Kaiser Permaentente member. When I asked, “why?” They said three words:

“One stop shop.”

Those three words explain a lot of the philosophy of the integrated health care system…

I am here in Atlanta, Georgia, as a guest The Southeast Permanente Medical Group (@TSPMG) and Kaiser Permanente, Georgia (@KPGANews), to support a phenomenal (because I have gone through it myself) physician leadership program for Permanente physician leaders that happens every year. I asked, as part of the trip, if I could shadow in a local medical office, as I usually do..

Downtown Decatur Medical Office is a significant place – it is the first physical embodiment of a new kind of medical office, a kind that would not have been created before the advent of health information technology. Photos are below of the prototype and this facility:

This medical office has no chart room, it has no radiology file room. It incorporates the Total Health Environment, which itself is the physical representation of health in facility design. I had only seen it in prototype form, fully built within the Sidney Garfield Center for Healthcare Innovation (@kpgarfield). This new medical office type now exists in Decatur and 10 other locations in Georgia. It’s a smaller medical office that blends into the community better, and includes three specialties – family medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. The thinking behind it is largely made possible by KP HealthConnect, because the care coordination that used to require a bigger medical center with a chart room is accomplished with technology.

I shadowed Shaanta Hanagud, MD  as well as the clinical team Krystal Vance, Angel Boykins, and Kellie Knighton. Shaanta came (back) to Georgia from Kaiser Permanente Hawaii – this new medical office created a position that allowed her to practice family medicine in the state where she grew up. As with all the Kaiser Permanente facilities I visit, there”s good facility with the electronic medical record, and the good outcomes that result – Kaiser Permanente Georgia is #1 in the United States in breast cancer screening. I asked what % of patients are using the personal health record – “about half and half, ” which is also kind of huge.

There are a lot of patients coming in to be seen for the first time, both because of the newness of the office, and the fact that this region grew a whopping 10% in members in just the first quarter of 2011.

Besides seeing the process and delivery of care in this new model medical office myself, I got to watch a colleague see and be inspired by what he saw at the level of the patient. Chip Strosnider, is  the Director, Business Technology Planning & Portfolio Management and the official IT Technology Innovation “hunter” for Kaiser Permanente Georgia. He is a huge friend and supporter of this health system’s growth using technology already and asked if he could shadow with me (answer is always yes). Knowing that I will definitely learn from seeing things at the level of the patient and watching a colleague discover the value is priceless.

What I learned, besides the idea that the facility I had only seen in prototype exists, is that there are people staffing these new offices, part of a growing organization, ready, willing and able to deliver health care in a new way, new format.  It’s a nice continuation of the story that I first picked up in a simulation facility in Oakland, California.

With great thanks to the staff at Kaiser Permanente Decatur, Carl Czuboka, MD, the local chief (who is in the photo with me above), and the rest of The Southeast Permanente Medical Group and Kaiser Permanente Georgia for the chance to see the future.


Hi Ted,

Just saw your e-patient connections talk on "Why Participation Changes Things for Healthcare." Excellent! I've forwarded that to many of my colleagues.

It's nice to see the fruition of the "Total Health Environment" in a real-world setting too. Now if we could just get our Electronic Health Records to be as enjoyable to navigate as that immersive KP video about the patient's life…

David Tao

Very inspired by the strides KP is taking to incorporate digital practices. Shifting the office environment to a new flow will be essential to improving the patient experience.

Ted Eytan, MD