Kaiser Permanente members annually have more than 100 million encounters with company physicians, 52% of which are now virtual visits, Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson told a Nashville luncheon audience Friday.
That transition from physical to virtual visits has been enabled by Kaiser Permanente's aggressive spending on information technology, Tyson said at a Nashville Health Care Council presentation.
IT accounts for about 25% of the health system's $3.8 billion annual capital spend. That's about 6% of the $71 billion in revenue that Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente generates annually, making it the nation's largest integrated health system.
Members like the convenience of being able to get minor ailments looked at or get test results outside the doctor's office, Tyson said.
It works for Kaiser Permanente, too. Fully 95% of its 11.7 million members are covered on a capitated basis, meaning that Kaiser Permanente is paid a monthly member fee to take care of a patient's full range of healthcare needs. As a result, Kaiser Permanente physicians don't have the same worries as other practitioners about getting paid for virtual visits.
Tyson, who was questioned by former U.S. Senator Dr. Bill Frist, said the move to virtual doctor visits reflected a new consumerism that Kaiser Permanente is endeavoring to keep up with daily.
The old fee-for-service system of healthcare was built around episodic care, in which people only entered into the system when hurt or sick, Tyson said. "The 'fix me' system," he said.
Kaiser Permanente's approach is to help keep members well by promoting healthy eating, assisting schools and encouraging preventative check-ups, Tyson said.
"We're reimagining medical care," he said.
Tyson, a perennial member of Modern Healthcare's list of the most influential people in healthcare, was named this week to the 2017 Time 100, its annual list of 100 most influential people in the world.
For example, Kaiser Permanente is experimenting with what Tyson called mega-health centers, which are as much community assets and medical facilities. He said they are being constructed with fruit counters, exercise rooms and walking paths.
Tyson said he saw more and more care gravitating to the home and away from the hospital and physician office as technology allows for inexpensive tele-visits, accurate patient monitoring and convenient interaction.
Tyson said that he has attended two meetings at the White House with President Donald Trump to talk about continuing the progress started by the Affordable Care Act and to talk about care for veterans.
A big supporter of ACA, Tyson said he hoped the administration would maintain insurance for the 24 million newly insured and that healthcare executives need to make their voices heard on the important debate happening in Washington.
Frist said President Trump remains short-handed with just 24 of the top 500 administration posts currently filled vs. 150 positions filled by President Barack Obama during the first 100 days of his administration.
Tyson said that healthcare leaders can and must have an influence on the replacement of the ACA. "That's why we have to be at the table," he said.
Correction: April 22, 2017
This story has been updated to correctly attribute a statement made by Sen. Frist.