In 2021, Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) partnered with researchers, health systems, and communities to help improve health care and address health inequities.
Highlights this year included a new $55.6 million grant to diversify and broaden the participants and science of the Seattle-based Adult Changes in Thought Study, which seeks better ways to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. KPWHRI also launched the Center for Accelerating Care Transformation, with the goal of accelerating the adoption of evidence-based, patient-centered practices to improve health for communities everywhere. These endeavors and all of our research innovating health and health care would not be possible without our team of 314 talented, passionate, and perseverant scientists and support staff.
This year KPWHRI scientists shared groundbreaking research findings on COVID-19 vaccines, firearms and suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce chronic pain for people taking long-term opioids, and much more. Our researchers published 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 72 of which were led by institute researchers. Here are some of our research highlights that made headlines in 2021:
COVID-19 vaccine research
In 2021, we continued to be at the forefront of vaccine research. Our vaccine scientists were part of a study that found the Moderna vaccine offered protection against Delta and other variants 6 months after vaccination. KPWHRI was also part of a clinical trial exploring mixing different vaccines and boosters.
Increasing health care access
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how many of us access health care services. Our researchers worked with the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium to learn what concerned people most about returning for breast cancer screening, providing insights to help mammogram clinics adopt safety measures and expand access.
Advancing health equity
A KPWHRI-led study took a close look at prediction models that use health record data to identify people at high risk of suicide, finding that models that work well in a general population sample can perform poorly in some racial and ethnic groups.
Improving breast cancer screening, diagnosis
A study led by KPWHRI collaborators found that race, income, and education may affect access to 3D mammography — technology that can improve breast cancer detection rates and decrease false alarms.
New evidence about dementia prevention, intervention, and care
The Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study released major findings this year, including about associations between dementia risk and fine-particle air pollution, specific medications for high blood pressure, hearing loss, and cataract surgery.
A Kaiser Permanente Firearm Injury Prevention Task Force study found that patients will answer a question about their firearm access during clinic visits. Asking about the availability of firearms could help clinicians start conversations about safely storing them when patients are at risk of suicide.
Improving care for cardiovascular disease
A study conducted under real-world clinical conditions uncovered the obstacles faced by smaller practices when integrating cardiovascular disease risk calculators into primary care. Researchers have now mapped 13 barriers to inform the adoption of health service innovations.
Exploring bariatric surgery in chronic kidney disease
New research found that bariatric (weight-loss) surgery may help people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and obesity live longer — a finding that challenges earlier studies linking obesity to better survival among people with CKD.
Managing chronic pain
A KPWHRI study showed that a program of cognitive behavioral therapy that includes yoga-based movement reduces pain and disability for people with chronic pain who are taking long-term opioids. What's more, primary care team members can provide the CBT program at their clinics.
Sharing physician notes with patients
A federal rule began requiring doctors to provide patients with access to their online notes. For doctors concerned about this change, a KPWHRI study provided reassurance, finding that doctors’ fears about allowing their patients to see notes in their electronic health record diminished after first-hand experience with such access.
KPWHRI expanded its operating budget in 2021, reaching more than $64 million. Federal grant and contract revenue totaled $51.2 million and other sponsored revenue was more than $5.9 million. Our number of active grants stood at about 338.