When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Washington state, the ACT Center sprang to action, bringing an array of learning health system capabilities to the table.


Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic at Kaiser Permanente and in Washington state

The challenge

When the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Washington State, life as we knew it changed. Our health system rapidly transitioned from in-person to virtual care but needed ways to understand the clinical implications of stay-at-home orders or who might be at high risk of negative health outcomes because they were not getting in-person care or were more vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, our health system leaders needed a systematic way to remain informed about the rapidly emerging evidence on testing, treatment, and vaccine development.

The work

  • Use predictive analytics to identify Medicare-age patients at highest risk for complications of COVID-19, so care teams could proactively reach out to these patients offering care and support.
  • Help Kaiser Permanente Washington’s newly formed Business Command Center to understand, improve, and evaluate virtual care models that quickly evolved from the system’s rapid COVID-19 response.
  • Conduct rapid reviews of scientific evidence related to COVID-19 care during the first year of the pandemic. Our team systematically searched through peer-reviewed research articles and preprints to find the most notable studies related to COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. Senior researchers reviewed the evidence and shared summaries with health system leaders. Monthly briefings helped Kaiser Permanente leaders stay up to date on the latest evidence in the midst of constantly changing knowledge.
  • Share insights with Washington state’s COVID-19 Health System Response Management team in developing a database to track hospital and intensive care unit use statewide.
  • Partner with Kaiser Permanente Washington Community Health and various community partners to identify and share resources with care providers in the region’s federally qualified health centers, including in-clinic workflows for COVID-19 and collaboratives to plan for emerging social needs resulting from the pandemic.

What we learned

As our members, care teams, and health system faced the multitude of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to rapidly pivot and leverage our core capabilities as a learning health system to support Kaiser Permanente Washington, the community, and the state of Washington. We still have much work to do and much to learn as we continue to witness the disproportionate impacts of this pandemic on our most minoritized communities.


Our work enabled care teams to efficiently reach out to thousands of patients who were at high risk of negative health impacts during the pandemic. It also supported health system leaders in making evidence-informed decisions during a quickly evolving public health crisis and helped our safety net partners to put tested strategies and workflows in place.

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