Kaiser Permanente: Making the most of resources

SAS spoke with Wansu Chen, MS, to learn how Kaiser Permanente leveraged the SAS® Business Intelligence platform to analyze research data and assist patient care management. Chen, a biostatistician in the Department of Research & Evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, serves as Group Leader for Biostatistics and Database Development.

As one of the largest health care organizations in the United States, Kaiser Permanente often teams with pharmaceutical companies, research foundations and government agencies to conduct research. These include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When we’re deep in systems development, it’s easy to forget that ultimately it’s about improving peoples’ lives. But with the alacrity and accuracy we’ve attained, it’s easy to make the leap between our SAS-driven intelligence and ways we can help our HIV patients.

Wansu Chen
Group Leader, Biostatistics and Database Development

The huge volume and variety within the Southern California patient population provide a rich source of data – one of the reasons that pharmaceutical companies and the government frequently engage with Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC). An added factor is the scientific and analytical expertise in the Department of Research & Evaluation (KPSC R&E).

The Department of Research & Evaluation conducts high-quality public-sector health services, epidemiologic, behavioral and clinical research. The department focuses on outcomes research that can make a demonstrable, positive impact on the health and well-being of Kaiser members and the community.

Research & Evaluation Department leverages SAS

Kaiser has been using SAS to analyze research data for over 20 years. Most recently, KPSC R&E has leveraged the SAS Business Intelligence platform and its capabilities for the Vaccine Safety Data Link (VSD) initiative. This project, led by the CDC, monitors safety issues related to vaccines. Wansu Chen, MS, helmed the project in KPSC R&E.

VSD requires KPSC R&E to extract vaccine and utilization information for Southern California KPSC members starting from 1992. There are more than 33 million records on vaccine utilization and more than 300 million records on inpatient and outpatient diagnoses – a mammoth volume of data. In addition, some files require updates on a weekly basis and multiple versions of files have to be kept -- straining the resources required to manage this manually.

Convenience and high performance support HIV care

Since the summer of 2007, KPSC R&E has been testing the KPIT Analytical Center for Excellence (ACE) new SAS environment, running SAS Business Intelligence tools to create an application for HIV care providers.

The new SAS platform supported through ACE provides convenience in high-performance standards for KPSC’s statisticians, analysts and programmers. With SAS, KPSC programmers can see data content as if they were using Windows-based SAS in the UNIX environment. As Chen says, “They benefit from the new features and the convenience that our new SAS products provide.”

Extending the reach of R&E services

The SAS advantage extends beyond the programmers and statisticians to help a different kind of audience. The KPSC R&E analytical staff members are capable of providing constituents and users such as care providers with a whole new spectrum of visual and feature-rich information delivery capabilities with SAS.

KPSC R&E also supports HIV patient care management. In the past, once the HIV reports were generated, they were delivered manually through e-mails to each medical center because individual medical centers received different reports. Reports were followed up with an email giving intended users the passwords needed to access the information – a process that was neither convenient nor secure.

Secure, customizable, web-based reporting

The new HIV application using the SAS Business Intelligence portal and web reporting capabilities allows end users – including researchers, HIV doctors, nurses and care coordinators – to log in and view the reports that they want to see at their own convenience, leveraging a graphical user interface (GUI) and intuitive environment. They also have the option to create customized reports using wizard-driven interfaces focused on their designated selection criteria. All of the reports can be stored and made available to unlimited authors and users with the appropriate permissions.

A role-based security capability embedded in the technology ensures all information remains private and secure. End users also are now capable of taking advantage of data in near real time, improving the report-delivery process but still having the power to do complex computations leading to the integration of analytic results and processes.

Increased resource efficiencies

In parallel, the use of KPSC R&E analytical and IT resources is more efficient. Most importantly, health care professionals can view hospitalization records for active HIV members, HIV drugs that patients took in the past six months or patients’ CD4 levels, which are an important indicator for care coordinators of HIV patients.

The business benefits of improved performance and increased convenience have caused KPSC R&E leadership to express interest in other SAS intelligence suites. The benefits reaped with SAS are evident, and Chen says, “SAS is always the No. 1 software that we use for data analysis.”

“When we’re deep in systems development, it’s easy to forget that ultimately it’s about improving peoples’ lives,” she concludes. “But with the alacrity and accuracy we’ve attained, it’s easy to make the leap between our SAS-driven intelligence and ways we can help our HIV patients.”


Free up IT resources, improve patient care by – among other examples – supplying HIV patients and their caregivers with automated access to detailed hospitalization and medication reports.


SAS® Business Intelligence


  • Patients are more satisfied with their level of care.
  • Health care providers see better bottom-line performance when IT staff members are free to spend time pursuing new cost-saving analytical opportunities instead of generating last-minute reports.
The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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