Kaiser Permanente celebrates one year in Vail Valley, Summit County | VailDaily.com

Kaiser Permanente celebrates one year in Vail Valley, Summit County

EDWARDS — Kaiser Permanente opened its Eagle and Summit county facilities a year ago, and — so far so good, said Brent Bowman, Kaiser's vice president for Colorado mountain service area.

Kaiser, Colorado's largest nonprofit health plan, is ahead of its forecast with more than 4,000 new mountain area members, creating dozens of new jobs and offering a new digital chat function that allows members to communicate directly with a physician online, Bowman said.

"We're thrilled with the reception from the community," Bowman said. "It has also been tremendously successful from a patient satisfaction perspective."

Dr. Shannon Garton does family practice in Kaiser's Edwards office. She grew up in the Vail Valley and said she is not surprised with Kaiser's warm reception. Dave Garton is her uncle and Bart Garton is her cousin. Tim Garton is her dad.

Garton was working in urgent care and wanted to make the transition back to family practice. The Kaiser opportunity fell into her lap and she grabbed it, she said.

"It's a great organization to work with," Garton said.

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Health Technology

Along with expanding its physical facilities, Kaiser doctors are part of an online platform called Chat With A Doctor, launched late last year.

"In the mountains there's a cost to convenience and all the services. We are attempting to make convenience more affordable," Garton said.

Chat With A Doctor connects Kaiser Permanente members in the mountain communities to securely interact with one of 40 Kaiser Colorado physicians in real-time, for questions or advice. Patients can also share photos.

It's free to the member on a per-chat basis as part of the membership.

The secure chat function is available at no copay, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

"Our members love Chat With A Doctor," said Dr. Margaret Ferguson, president and executive medical director of the Colorado Permanente Medical Group. "Like our other virtual care offerings, Chat is convenient and makes it easier for members to access health care on their terms."

Garton received an email a couple days ago from a patient who used the Chat program to speak with a doctor, who confirmed that she had a cold. The patient did not need an office visit, they only needed rest.

"It saves the patient some money. I can't tell you how many patients I've seen over the years who would benefit from this," Garton said.

Hospital care for Kaiser Permanente members in the mountain communities is provided at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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