The day started out like any other for Dr. Mary Aesoph at the Kaiser Permanente Olympia Clinic. Aesoph is an audiologist. She had just finished a routine hearing appointment, when she received a call from a family practice provider, just down the hall at the walk-in urgent care clinic. Over the phone, she listened carefully as the primary care provider relayed the patient’s case to her. Upon hearing the story, Aesoph knew the patient would need treatment right away.
That morning, the patient arrived at the clinic, experiencing symptoms of sudden hearing loss in one ear. The walk-in clinic provider examined the patient and found no signs of injury or infection, which are the common causes of sudden onset hearing loss. That’s when the general practitioner decided to contact Aesoph to help determine the best course of action.
Aesoph set the patient up with an urgent hearing test appointment after speaking with the general practitioner, so she could see the patient right away. The hearing test confirmed a moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss—a hearing loss which originated at the nerve—in the patient’s right ear.
“With this type of hearing loss, where it happens at the nerve level, we have a very short window of opportunity for the patient to receive treatment,” says Aesoph. Studies indicate that the patient must be treated quickly, otherwise the hearing loss may be irreversible. She immediately connected the patient with the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department, which provided steroid treatment. “In this case, the patient began steroid treatment immediately and they recovered, with no diminished hearing,” she adds.
Sudden changes in your body should be concerning, even so, some patients think the best course of action might be to wait it out. Fortunately, this patient decided to use Kaiser Permanente’s urgent care in Olympia. The specialty clinics were able to work together and coordinate care with the general practice provider right away, which probably saved the patient’s hearing.
Aesoph’s experience is not unique. At the Kaiser Permanente Tacoma Medical Center, Physician Assistant Jina Cho saw an athlete in his 20s who experienced calf pain while competing. Because the exam was abnormal, Cho asked Dr. Sarah Haastrup, a family practice physician, to take a look at the patient. After confirming the abnormal findings, the two brought in the sports medicine physician who advised on the appropriate imaging test. After that, the orthopedics team was able to see the patient all in the same day. With prompt treatment, the prognosis was good and the patient is expected to return to his sport soon.
Giving Patients More with Integrated Care
The fully integrated care model of Kaiser Permanente makes positive patient outcomes possible. The story above is only one example. Patients throughout Washington are able to receive their health care coverage and medical care through a single system, which creates a streamlined and efficient process. This patient-centered approach to health and wellness has been built into the Kaiser Permanente model since its founding.
Many Kaiser Permanente clinics offer coordinated services all in the same building. The Tacoma Medical Center, the Tacoma South Medical Center, and the Olympia Medical Center have urgent care, primary care, pharmacy, lab, imaging, and several specialties all under one roof. This offers convenience to every patient, whether they arrive with uncommon conditions, like the patient with sudden hearing loss, or if they are just visiting their primary care provider for an annual checkup.
The specialty services offered at Kaiser Permanente area clinics are not just a benefit to the patient in terms of convenience. Physicians appreciate the integrated system too, where they can reach out to a number of colleagues, across a variety of specialties, for consultation at a moment’s notice.
“It’s really amazing being part of an organization where primary care and specialty have such easy and direct communication,” says Haastrup. “An injury or illness can cause such stress, and being able to coordinate care among departments can really help. We really are all on the same team. “
Kaiser Permanente has over 800 physicians working within their network across Washington. They represent a variety of specialties, all striving to improve patient care.
For more information, visit the Kaiser Permanente website.
Kaiser Permanente Tacoma Medical Center
209 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma
Kaiser Permanente Tacoma South Medical Center
9505 Steele Street S, Tacoma