Virginia Garcia-Kaiser Permanente Partnership
What does Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest health care systems in the country have in common with Virginia Garcia, a group of safety net clinics in Washington and Yamhill Counties? As it turns out, quite a lot. “Kaiser and Virginia Garcia share the same core values in our commitment to providing health care to underserved populations,” said Tracy Dannen-Grace, Kaiser’s community benefits manager. “About twenty percent of our members live in Washington County and could be well served by Virginia Garcia.”
For the last decade, Kaiser has provided sponsorship, financial and in-kind support to Virginia Garcia. Grants from Kaiser have supported everything from capacity building, to electronic medical records (EMR), to expanded dental services, to ongoing trainings for Virginia Garcia staff. In 2005, Virginia Garcia received capital monies to help establish the dental clinic in Hillsboro, giving Virginia Garcia the capacity and resources to concentrate on oral health for the first time. Four years ago, when Virginia Garcia began the transition from paper to EMR, Kaiser provided grant money for the purchase of hardware and software for EPIC electronic records. In addition, information technology teams from Kaiser worked shoulder to shoulder with Virginia Garcia providers and staff to help smooth the transition to the new system. Last year Kaiser gave Virginia Garcia a grant for the Oral Health Initiative to introduce dental care at its School-based Health Centers (SBHC). Kaiser has also offered project management and medical team leadership trainings for all Virginia Garcia clinics.
What does Kaiser gain in return? “Virginia Garcia has an innovative model,” said Dannen-Grace. “Virginia Garcia is small enough to be nimble in how they put the medical home into practice. The team–based care combined with ancillary services to meet the needs of the population Virginia Garcia serves is something we can all learn from.” Virginia Garcia’s experience working with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and the use of community health workers and classes has helped inform Kaiser’s approach to working with similar populations, according to Dannen-Grace.
In fact, Kaiser has formalized an ongoing ‘intellectual exchange’ between the two health care systems. In November, Kaiser and Virginia Garcia brought senior leaders in clinical care, finance, operations and wellness and prevention together to share ideas on best practices. “It was the first time we’ve dedicated one of our community service days to an intellectual exchange,” said Dannen-Grace. “Both organizations found it so beneficial that we’ll probably do it again.”
Kaiser and Virginia Garcia are also partners in a Clinical Quality Improvement program. This three year grant supports the hiring of a full time nurse coordinator to develop a program to help manage diabetes care at each Virginia Garcia primary care site. “Our goal is to develop the best practices and protocol in managing our patients with diabetes,” said Ann Turner, Virginia Garcia’s co-medical director.
One of the most innovative Virginia Garcia projects that Kaiser helped launch is the Oral health Initiative. Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, Virginia Garcia began providing oral health services to students at the two SBHC at Tigard and Forest Grove High Schools. Each week, a dental hygienist from Virginia Garcia provides oral health screenings, cleanings and sealants for students at each SBHC. “After initial screenings, we bring the Virginia Garcia mobile van equipped with dental chairs and services to the schools to see kids who can’t get to our clinics,” said Lisa Bozzetti, Virginia Garcia’s dental director. “These visits give us the opportunity to educate students about oral health and to look for significant oral health issues that need to be referred to the Virginia Garcia dental clinic. Kaiser provided funds that help us purchase equipment and get the Oral Health Initiative off the ground.”
In March, executives from Kaiser visited the Tigard SBHC to see the Oral Health Initiative in action. A video team shot footage of the mobile dental clinic and interviews with dental care experts from Kaiser and Virginia Garcia. “The northwest is the only region in which Kaiser has a focus on oral health care,” said Dannen-Grace. “The introduction of dental care in the SBHC is ground-breaking and we hope to bring national attention to this program.”