Kaiser Permanente announces Edwards facility | VailDaily.com

Kaiser Permanente announces Edwards facility

Melanie Wong

EDWARDS — Health care company Kaiser Permanente announced plans on Tuesday to open a primary care facility in Edwards Corner.

The offices will take up 6,000 square feet of suite office space in downtown Edwards, with the doors of the facility set to open on Jan. 4.

“We’ll definitely need all of the three and a half months leading up to the opening to get the space ready, but we have a pretty good track record of turning spaces around in a short time frame,” said Brent Bowman, executive director of Colorado’s mountain service area.

The Edwards facility, which will have two full-time primary care physicians, visiting specialists, and routine lab and imaging services, is the second facility planned for Kaiser Permanente’s expansion into the high country. Kaiser Permanente is also building a new medical office building in Summit County.

“We are very excited to bring new options for high quality and affordable health care and coverage to the Colorado mountain communities where there is clearly a need,” Bowman said. “We selected Edwards for its convenient location and vibrant community where so many Coloradans live, work and play.”

Kaiser Permanente is unique in that the company provides both the insurance and medical services, so the facilities are mainly for patients with Kaiser health insurance. However, non-Kaiser patients will also be seen on basis of doctor availability, company officials said.

‘Competitively priced’

Bowman said that like the rest of Colorado, the mountain population is growing and has a need for more health care options.

“The state is going to grow extremely fast. We’ve spent the last couple years expanding in the Front Range, and we’ve been turning to how to expand along the whole state. It made sense to move up in northern Colorado over the past few years, and then we started looking at the mountain populations,” Bowman said.

He said his expectation is that Kaiser’s presence will help make health care more affordable for mountain residents. Kaiser’s rates will go public on Oct. 1. Individuals shopping for health insurance can compare Kaiser’s rates on http://www.connectforhealthco.com at that time.

“We’ll be in line with the most competitively priced rates in Eagle County,” said Bowman, pointing to an example in Summit County. “In 2014 when we announced we were going to enter the Summit and Eagle county markets, one of the large insurers here lowered their rates by 8 percent, and in their press release, they cited us as one of the reasons.”

Health care of the future

Plans for the Edwards clinic are modest — when the facility is up and running, it will have 15 to 20 full-time staff. (Available positions will be posted at http://www.kp.org/ careers.) To offer patients choices beyond Kaiser’s facilities that might be closer to home than traveling to the Front Range, the company is currently in talks to partner with local primary and specialty care physicians and hospitals. That model has worked well in northern Colorado, where Kaiser Permanente partnered with the regional hospital and health care group, to great success, said Amy Whited, of Kaiser’s media relations.

The Edwards facility will also feature some new services, including “video visits” with physicians and a 24/7 advice nurse line. Patients will be able to attend their video visits through a secure Web-based program from the comfort of their home. Bowman said the industry still isn’t quite clear on what role the technology will play in the health care of the future, but for now, it’s another option for patients.

“The jury is out as to whether it will really replace face-to-face visits. We’ve seen a higher number of patients communicating with their doctors through ways like email, but at the same time, face-to-face visits haven’t declined,” he said. “We hypothesize it may be more like a way to get quick questions answered, or a way to maximize the face-to-face visit.”

The 24/7 nurse line allows patients to get urgent questions answered, or get help in assessing if they need to go to see a doctor.

Kaiser Permanente officials also point out that they are the state’s largest nonprofit health plan, and that they have been and will continue to support a number of community organizations that include the Vail Valley Partnership, the Vail Valley Foundation, the Education Foundation of Eagle County and Eagle River Youth Coalition. For more information, see http://www.kp.com/thrive.

“We’re trying to establish that we are wanting to be part of the community before we even arrive here. That’s core to who we are,” Bowman said.

Assistant Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

Support Local Journalism