Kaiser offering door-to-door medical care for mountain patients | AspenTimes.com

Kaiser offering door-to-door medical care for mountain patients

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

Brent Bowman, executive director of Kaiser Permanente’s mountain service area. Kaiser is opening its Edwards office Jan. 4, as well as an office in Frisco, and has partnered with Colorado Mountain Medical, a regional medical group serving the Vail Valley, Summit County and the Roaring Fork Valley.

EDWARDS — Colorado's largest nonprofit health plan is willing to drive you to Denver, put you in a hotel, handle your medical procedure and drive you home if it's less expensive than having your work done in the mountains.

And Kaiser Permanente still won't lose money, said Brent Bowman, executive director of Kaiser Permanente's mountain service area.

"It is door-to-door service. We tested it, and it works. When it's appropriate, we'll provide that service," Bowman said. "The cost disparity is so great that it is financially beneficial to the organization and the patient."

If you want to stay home, Colorado Mountain Medical partnered with Kaiser to offer primary and specialty care services to Kaiser Permanente members starting next month.

Colorado Mountain Medical has served residents in the Vail Valley for more than 35 years and has four regional locations: Vail, Edwards, Eagle and Basalt.

Colorado Mountain Medical has a network of 26 physicians, three physician assistants and one nurse practitioner. Services include internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics and OB-GYN as well as specialty care options including nephrology, cardiology, urology, otolaryngology and gastroenterology.

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"We're excited to work alongside our colleagues at Colorado Mountain Medical to provide care for our Kaiser Permanente members in these mountain communities," said Mark Carvalho, vice president of external relations and mountain expansion for the Colorado Permanente Medical Group.

Cost comparisons

Electronic medical record makes cost and quality data available, enabling apples-to-apples cost and quality comparisons, Bowman said.

"People also want choice," Bowman said. "There is a cost for convenience. In the mountains that cost is much higher than it is in a dense urban environment."

Bowman cited a report that indicates as many as 80 percent of Avon residents' medical care is occurring outside the mountains. In Summit County, 30 to 40 percent of residents get medical care in Denver, Bowman said.

"We pored over publicly recorded claims data to learn where the cost of care is different," Bowman said.

Kaiser is opening its Edwards facility next month. Kaiser Permanente is also opening a Summit County medical office in the Basecamp retail center in Frisco, and announced a partnership with Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

Colorado now has these major health insurance providers: Kaiser Permanente, Anthem Blue Cross, United Healthcare, Cigna and Humana.

70 years in the industry

Kaiser has been around for 70 years nationally. In Colorado, where Kaiser has been for 46 years — mostly in metro Denver and northern and southern Colorado — it's a $3.7 billion company.

"That provides economies of scale," Bowman said.

Moving from the Front Range and into the mountains was the next obvious step, Bowman said, especially when the world learned that Summit, Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties had the nation's highest health insurance costs in 2014.

"It's a long-term play for us; a long-term commitment," Bowman said.

Kaiser Permanente members also have access to many online tools, including the ability to refill prescriptions online and view lab results. Members will be able to schedule "video visits" with a provider from home through a secure, Web-based program.

Kaiser is a 501(c)(3) and is required to invest a percentage of its profits in the community, Bowman said.

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