A Conversation with Dr. Richard Isaacs, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group and the Mid Atlantic Permanente Medical Group
By AJAY KOHLI, MD
Organizations aren’t built in crises. Their mettle, their history and their leadership define how organizations adapt and succeed, particularly in difficult times. Of the three, the most important quality is leadership. In this regard, Kaiser Permanente is leading the way in healthcare delivery.
had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Richard Isaacs, CEO of The Permanente Medical Group and The MidAtlantic Permanente
Medical Group, to discuss the strategic vision and granular details of
Kaiser Permanente’s response to the global pandemic of COVID-19.
Kaiser Permanente has a strong foundation in the history of delivering care to the vulnerable. Founded in 1945 by a surgeon, Dr. Sidney Garfield, and an industrialist, Henry J. Kaiser, the organization grew from a single hospital in Oakland, California into one of the largest physician-led organizations in the world. Currently, it boasts more than 22,000 physicians responsible for the care of more than 12.5 million lives.
Many question how large healthcare organizations, like Kaiser Permanente, can adapt to a rapidly evolving problem, like the global pandemic of COVID-19, especially when cities and even countries are struggling under the burden.
By CHITRA CHHABRA KOHLI MD, AJAY KOHLI MD, and VINAY KOHLI MD, MBA
With a doubling time of cases estimated between 3 days within the U.S. and about 6 days globally (at the time of this writing) COVID-19 is demonstrating its terrifying virulence as it spreads across the world.
What’s perhaps equally terrifying, if not more, is the absence of a known cure or treatment plan for COVID-19. While there has been a lot of attention focused on Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin, there has been debate on the scientific validity of these treatment options, either as therapy or as prophylaxis. The impact of a solution certainly has far reaching potential, the scope of the challenge is overwhelmingly large. The editor-in-chief of Science recently wrote that the efforts to find a cure are not just ”fixing a plane while it’s flying — it’s fixing a plane that’s flying while its blueprints are still being drawn.”
There is a promising therapy that may help us weather the COVID-19 storm and, perhaps, flatten the curve. It’s based around science that defines immunology and has already been used in many different diseases, going as far back as the 1918 flu pandemic. This potential treatment is convalescent plasma therapy — using antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and then transfusing them into patients who are currently mounting an immune response against the rapidly rising viral loads of COVID-19.
As I walk into the building, the sheer grandiosity of the room is one to withhold — it’s as if I’m walking into Grand Central station. There’s a small army of people, all busy at their desks, working to carry out the next wave of innovations helping more than a million lives within the Greater Philadelphia region. However, I’m not here to catch a train or enjoy the sights. I’m at the office of the President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. Stephen Klasko, currently at the helm of one of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S.
Let me backup a little.
The theme of nearly every conversation about the future of technology now revolves around Artificial Intelligence (AI). Much weight is placed on the potential capacity of AI to disrupt industries and change them to the very core. This pressure has been felt to a large extent within nearly every aspect of healthcare where AI has been projected to improve patient care delivery while saving billions of dollars.
Unfortunately, most discussions exploring the implications of AI only superficially look at either the product or the algorithm that powers these products. The short-sightedness of this approach is not an easy one to fix. Yes, clinical studies validating AI backed products are vital but AI cannot be viewed just like any other drug or a medical device. There’s much more to be considered when we examine the broader role of this technology, because this technology can shape the entire healthcare system. To place the impact of a far reaching technology, you need an even longer sighted vision. It’s a rare breed of people that have experienced the tumultuous history of change within medicine but can still call upon the lessons learned to execute innovations and bring meaningful results.