Kaiser Permanente - Deparment of Research and Evaluation

Department of Research & Evaluation FAQs

How long has Kaiser Permanente Southern California conducted research?

Research has been an integral part of Kaiser Permanente’s work in Southern California for more than 50 years.

Physicians at Kaiser Permanente Southern California medical centers led much of the early research, starting in the 1950s.

The first formal research department was established in 1963, when the Department of Education and Research was founded. Our Institutional Review Board was established in the late 1970s.

The current department that heads research in Southern California--Department of Research & Evaluation--was founded in 1988.

For more information, see the About Us section.

What kind of research do you do in Southern California?

Research in Kaiser Permanente Southern California encompasses clinical, epidemiological, behavioral, and health services research. Clinical Research looks at which treatments work, how well they work, and which works better than others. Treatments under study can range from vaccines to cancer screening tests, and include drugs and new medical devices.

Epidemiological Research examines possible causes of disease in specific populations. This research has focused on smoking and cancer, video display terminals, genetic defects, and other topics.

Behavioral Research examines the role of behavioral interventions to improve health and prevent disease.

Health Services Research helps develop greater knowledge about the most effective ways to deliver and finance care, provide access to care, and improve patient satisfaction.

What diseases and health conditions do you research in Southern California?

Research at Kaiser Permanente Southern California includes studies on numerous diseases and health conditions. Additionally, we study issues related to quality improvement, health services, patient safety, and economic issues. For more information, visit our Research section.

Why is it important for Kaiser Permanente Southern California to do research?

Kaiser Permanente Southern California possesses both scientific expertise and a membership that is large and diverse enough to be useful for a broad array of studies. In Southern California, we serve 3.7 million members. Our members reflect the diversity of our region; they represent more than 200 different ethnicities and speak about 125 different languages. This racial and ethnic diversity affords opportunities for our researchers to gain unique insights into health disparities.

Kaiser Permanente can also provide a unique perspective as an integrated health system. In Southern California, the health plan, the hospital, and medical group work together in a coordinated fashion for the benefit of the patient.

Records are linked by our robust electronic medical record system, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, allowing researchers to look at conditions and health outcomes across the care continuum.

Does Kaiser Permanente do research in other regions?

Yes. Kaiser Permanente has six research institutions throughout the country. The Department of Research & Evaluation is based in Pasadena, California. There are also research institutions based in Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

What is the vision for the Department of Research & Evaluation?

The Department of Research & Evaluation has an integral role in the success of Kaiser Permanente Southern California by conducting high-quality, innovative translational research that benefits the health of its members and the communities from which they come.

What is the department’s mission?

The mission of the Department of Research & Evaluation is to initiate and conduct high-quality, public-sector health services, epidemiologic, behavioral, and clinical research that has a demonstrable positive impact on the health and well-being of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members and the general population.

How large is the department?

Currently, our team includes more than 200 people. Most are based at our Pasadena, California offices, but we also have staff at medical centers in Southern California.

The department currently includes 19 research scientists who are experts in the areas of epidemiology, behavioral science, heath economics, biostatistics, and health services. In addition, about half a dozen retired physician partners from the Southern California Permanente Medical Group are affiliated with our department.

For more about our team, visit the Our Staff section.

Do you have current job openings?

Our department is growing rapidly and we’re always interested in hearing from qualified job seekers. For more information on current job openings, see our Job Seekers section.

Do you publish your research?

Our research scientists publish in peer-reviewed journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American Journal of Public Health, and other prominent scientific publications.

In 2009, our research scientists published about 90 papers. Physicians at our medical centers also publish extensively, with about 110 papers published in 2009.

Where can I find your research?

All of our Research categories are listed in our Research section . You can also search for published studies or ongoing studies by keyword, research topic, or researcher in search box in this section. Many of our studies are available through PubMed.

Who funds your research?

More than half of our funding comes from extramural sources. Many research projects in Kaiser Permanente Southern California are funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Food & Drug Administration. Kaiser Permanente funds some of our smaller studies through the Community Benefit program.

Why do you need to apply for grants?

The Department of Research & Evaluation operates like any other academic research operation, and relies on grants to fund studies just as they do. Research advances health, and is an important investment, but it is also not inexpensive.

In addition to externally funded studies, Kaiser Permanente Southern California also funds studies internally. Internally funded studies often focus on improving care delivery and health services for Kaiser Permanente members.

Does Kaiser Permanente Southern California conduct clinical trials?

Yes, we do. We currently have more than 400 active trials throughout the Southern California region.

We collaborate with major academic centers in the local area and beyond. Some of our partners in Southern California include UCLA, USC, and the City of Hope.

We have trials in cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, allergy, cardiology, and other areas.

Do you have a dedicated research clinic?

No. Research subjects visit us at medical centers and medical office buildings throughout Kaiser Permanente Southern California. Given the large geographic area we serve, it is easier for patients to visit us at the locations nearest to them.

We also do a significant amount of community-based research. Some of our studies are conducted at community clinics.

Are Kaiser Permanente members required to participate in research?

Participation in clinical trials or observational studies is completely voluntary. Informed consent is required and full disclosures are made.

When new members sign up for Kaiser Permanente, they agree to have data about their care used for research purposes.

Do your studies go through an Institutional Review Board?

Yes, we have the same rigorous controls that an academic research institution does. All studies must go through our Institutional Review Board, from project inception through its completion.

How do you protect patient privacy and confidentiality?

Privacy protection is an essential component of our research. Our scientists, staff, and other researchers around the region comply with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We also take Institutional Review Board-approved steps to protect participants' privacy and keep this information confidential.

Do you collaborate with other research institutions?

We collaborate with institutions around the world, from Los Angeles to India.

Academic collaborators have included UCLA, USC, Mayo, RAND, Berkeley, Boston University, Dana Farber, Georgetown, Henry Ford, University of Washington, University of Texas, Wake Forest, Yale, Tulane, Mt. Sinai, Albert Einstein, and others.

One of our local collaborations is with the Los Angeles Basin Clinical and Translational Science Institute at USC.

We also participate in research networks, including the HMO Research Network, Cancer Research Network, Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics, Coordinated Clinical Studies Network.

Additionally, we collaborate internally. Many of our studies are completed in partnership with clinicians at Kaiser Permanente Southern California medical centers.

Along with our sister departments in other Kaiser Permanente regions, we are developing the Center for Effectiveness and Safety Research to support trans-regional research. The center will present a programwide face to potential funders and collaborators outside of Kaiser Permanente.

Do you share protected health information with other institutions?

We collaborate extensively with other research organizations, but Kaiser Permanente does not make confidential patient health information available to outside entities.

We are more than willing to collaborate, but we want to maintain control of patient health information and ensure member privacy. As scientific partners, we want to work together with our collaborators on the outside to develop and address important clinical questions and report the findings in an objective manner.

Our scientists and physicians conduct research in a broad array of fields. We also have extensive research systems, and a talented staff of biostatisticians and research support.

What electronic systems do you use for scientific research?

Information is linked from the outpatient to inpatient settings by our robust electronic medical record, Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®. This allows researchers to look at conditions and health outcomes across the care continuum.

In addition, we have a number of other information technology tools that support scientific investigation. Much information, for example, can be geo-coded or linked with census data. Other tools allow us to gather information about populations with specific health conditions, ranging from asthma to end-stage renal disease.