Nurses are a critical part of U.S. health care. And there aren't enough of them.
Photograph by Al Seib LA Times via Getty Images
By Laura Lorenzetti
December 17, 2015

Kaiser Permanente plans to become the first U.S. insurer to open its own med school.

The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is set to open in 2019. Kaiser has a long history of innovation in health care delivery and wants to use that knowledge to train doctors for today’s rapidly changing medical profession. While hospitals and health systems have long been attached to medical schools, this is the only one to be opened by an health insurer to date, according to Kaiser’s research. The non-profit insurer also operates hospitals.

“Opening a medical school and influencing physician education is based on our belief that the new models of care mean we must reimagine how physicians are trained,” said Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine is one of about 10 medical schools currently in development in the U.S., according to research from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. All proposed medical schools must be approved by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education before officially opening.

Kaiser’s medical program will redesign the standard doctor training around what it calls “strategic pillars.” These include providing quality care beyond traditional medical settings, emphasizing collaboration for treatment decisions, and addressing disparities in health access. The new program design will be led by Christine K. Cassel, a doctor and CEO of the National Quality Forum. She is also one of 20 scientists picked by President Obama to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

More and more of today’s health care is being delivered beyond hospitals and medical offices. Patients are adopting technology for health purposes at an expanding rate. The U.S. is also becoming increasingly more diverse, requiring doctors who are adept at working across different cultures. On top of that, the advent of new payment systems has been refocusing how care is delivered, putting emphasis on quality outcomes rather than fees for service.

As both a health care provider and insurer, Kaiser Permanente has had to deal with these issues head on and in real time. Kaiser’s school intends to repurpose that experience to develop doctors who are ready to handle this new era of health care.

Kaiser’s proposed medical school, which will be located in Southern California, still must establish itself as a legal entity and begin the accreditation process over the coming months to be ready for its planned fall 2019 opening. The search for the founding dean will also begin in the coming year.

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