Kaiser Permanente, the health system based in California that combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, announced Thursday that it would open its own medical school in the state in 2019.
The system's leaders said their central goal was to teach Kaiser's model of integrated care to a new generation of doctors who will be under pressure to improve health outcomes and control costs by working in teams and using technology.
"Health care is evolving at a very, very rapid pace in our country and we have a model of care that's increasingly being looked to as an answer," said Dr. Edward M. Ellison, executive medical director for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, who is helping to oversee the medical school's creation.
Kaiser already trains about 600 medical residents in its own program, and several thousand more complete a portion of their training in it each year. But its medical school, planned for Southern California, would be one of the first run by an integrated health system without an academic partner, said Dr. George E. Thibault, president of the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, which encourages innovation in medical schools.
"If health care is increasingly going to take place in integrated systems," Dr. Thibault said, "a large part of the medical education experience should be what it's like to work in a system like that: the efficiencies and the processes and the ways in which patient care is benefited."
Dr. Thibault added that while Kaiser would not be the only integrated health system involved in medical education, it is "larger than any of them, has greater reach than any of them, greater resources."
Kaiser runs 38 hospitals in eight states and the District of Columbia, with 18,000 doctors working for its affiliated medical groups and more than 10 million patients, mostly in California. It receives a fixed amount for medical care per member, so there is a strong financial incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, a model that Kaiser pioneered and that is now being followed around the country.
Dr. Ellison said Kaiser's use of technology, through electronic medical records and new types of telemedicine that allow patients to receive "care anywhere in a way that's safe and effective," will also be crucial to its medical school curriculum.