Kaiser Permanente launches research bank built on member data


By Sarah Gantz

Baltimore Business Journal

Kaiser Permanente on Monday launched a research bank that will aggregate information from Kaiser’s national membership base to be used for research that could lead to better treatment for chronic conditions, cancers and other diseases.

Participation in the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank is voluntary and all members aged 18 and older will be invited to participate. Kaiser hopes to attract to the program at least 500,000 members, including 20,000 in its mid-Atlantic market to the new initiative.

“The goal of the program is really to improve our understanding of the genetic and biological factors in diseases,” Cabell Jonas, the regional operational lead for the research bank, said in an interview.

Kaiser Permanente has 10.6 million members nationwide, and as both insurer and health care provider, the organization is in a unique position to gather and analyze massive amounts of patient data from a diverse population.

Kaiser members are already all connected through the organization’s electronic medical record. But the research bank will use this information in a new way, by making it available to Kaiser researchers and their affiliates from outside the system.

Members who agree to participate will share de-identified data, complete an anonymous health survey and give a blood sample. Even though individual patients could not be identified through the data and it’s information Kaiser already has, the organization must get consent from members to include them in the database because it will be used for research, Jonas said.

Kaiser is hopeful that lots of members will sign up, to provide the most diverse set of data from patients of all ages, ethnicities and parts of the country.

The research bank is an opportunity for Kaiser to elevate its role as a researcher. Research has long been a part of Kaiser’s model and the is an area the organization hopes to grow, especially in the mid-Atlantic.

Kaiser has already received a lot of inquiries about the bank from researchers, Jonas said.

Jonas said the research bank will likely appeal to lots of researchers, since the data will include so many patients.

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