Kaiser Permanente: Creating Synergy in a Closed Loop System

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Kaiser Permanente does not do business with independent eyecare professionals. The California-based, non-profit health care giant operates a closed network for its members, and its optical lab works only with Kaiser Permanente’s Vision Essentials clinics. Despite these dissimilarities with the wholesale lab business model, there are aspects of Kaiser’s lab business that are somewhat the same.

Michael Hassel manages the optical laboratory for Vision Essentials by Kaiser Permanente, which is part of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group based in Los Angeles. He said, “Even though we are a closed network, service time is definitely a big motivator for someone to buy. Our clinics are all that we service. But our members, in order to purchase from our clinics, they don’t have to buy. After our members have their eye exam in our clinics, they can, out of their own pockets, purchase their eyewear at any optical store they choose. As a laboratory, we are definitely competing with service time and quality that’s out there in the open market,” he said.




Michael Hassel manages the optical laboratory for Vision Essentials by Kaiser Permanente, which is part of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group based in Los Angeles.
 
Like most other labs, the Kaiser lab works hard to keep its yields high. “We’re very proud of our lab remake rate,” said Hassel. “It’s extremely low. Our optical clinics are very demanding of us. Our overall yields probably aren’t as high as most labs, but our remakes are very low. Only very high-quality work leaves the lab.” Hassel added that the lab can process any type of Rx job, from simple to complex. No matter what the job may require, it’s all part of Kaiser’s mission to serve its members to the best of its ability.

Speaking about the synergy between the Kaiser lab and the clinics it serves, Hassel pointed out that “The Vision Essentials clinics are simply an extension of our lab and vice versa. We are one organization and thus we are one team with one mission. We have business workshops and frequent projects and collaboration initiatives, all of which create great interpersonal and team relationships.”



Stephanie Valencia
Business Line Manager
of Optical Dispensing
Kaiser Permanente’s Riverside Medical Center




When the lab ships a completed job to the clinic, the clinic’s staff personally calls the patient to ensure they are aware their order has arrived. All status updates are checked daily by optical staff to eliminate wait time. “Keeping a positive conversation during these times is key,” emphasized Stephanie Valencia, business line manager of optical dispensing in Kaiser’s Riverside Medical Center. “It’s important to us that our patients know their needs are a priority and that we have solid processes in place to ensure timely delivery.”

As a clinic manager, Valencia makes sure the staff are kept up to date on all new communication delivered regarding lab operations. “A great way we have kept communication alive in our clinics are daily and weekly huddles, this gives you a chance to discuss updates and new processes as a team,” she said. “This also allows staff a chance to ask questions for understanding or share new ideas. We also utilize an online rounding tool with staff to keep the group well-informed and maintain a great relationship with ECPs. This has helped support trust and follow-through to ensure they have what they need daily to do their best.”