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KP Inside: 101 letters to the people of Kaiser Permanente

by George C. Halvorson

Building an organizational culture and value set is an important and foundational job for organizational leaders, so Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson helped that process in his most recent CEO assignment by personally writing a weekly letter to nearly 200,000 Kaiser Permanente employees and team members for more than five years.

The letters each celebrated an actual and current Kaiser Permanente achievement or success. The letters were sent out at close of day each Friday.

This book contains 100 of those letters.

Halvorson personally wrote the weekly letter — celebrating various achievements, successes, awards, and milestones of the organization — and said that writing the letters was a high light of many weeks. Topics included Kaiser Permanente’s leadership role in slashing HIV-AIDS mortality rates in half, reducing pressure ulcers in hospitals by more than 60 percent, preventing the number of broken bones in senior citizens by more than 30 percent — plus achieving various levels of recognition for health plan quality and service, electronic health records, research, environmental stewardship, employee diversity, and member satisfaction.

As an historical document, the book of letters provides a unique and personal glimpse inside Kaiser Permanente processes and values.  Kaiser Permanente is an organization that continues to learn how to deliver the next generation of care, and teaches other care systems how to provide the best patient-focused, electronically connected team care with measurable and continuously improving medical outcomes as their goal, philosophy, strategy, and functional work approach.

These letters have not been edited. The book contains the exact letters that went to all members of the Kaiser Permanente care teams each week. The letters triggered hundreds of responses from the care teams, and were often used to help teach various teams about possible ways of enhancing the work being done in various settings.

Data supported continuous improvement processes, best science, and patient-focused and patient-centered team care were all celebrated in the letters. In their entirety, they offer an almost unique package that gives readers a sense of how complex a care system can be when you look at its component parts.

“This book tells a fascinating story of what it means to be a high-performing organization at the top of its game — week in and week out.” Stephen M. Shortell, Ph.D. Dean, School of Public Health University of California, Berkeley

“The letters are fun to read. They celebrate great achievements. They show what an organization based on a strong patient-centered physician culture, supported by state-of-the-art information technology well used, and by visionary leadership can do to improve health care.” Alain Enthoven, Ph.D. Eccles Professor of Public and Private Management (Emeritus) Knight Management Center Stanford University Graduate School of Business