Steve Offerman, MD, FACMT
“We offer a unique service, one that is reducing hospital stays and length of stays for our patients. And because of the volume we do, our toxicologists are some of the most experienced in the country.”
When Steve Offerman, MD, joined The Permanente Medical Group in 2005, he quickly became familiar with its motto: “Provide the right care, at the right time, in the right way.” With this in mind, he soon saw an opportunity. He wanted patients who go to any of KP Northern California’s 21 medical centers for poisoning to have access to a trained toxicologist who can provide the best, timely care.
“Less than 500 toxicologists practice in the United States today,” explains Dr. Offerman. “That leaves physicians nearly everywhere with just two options—treat the patient if you are familiar with the protocol for a particular toxin, or consult the nearest Poison Control Center, which isn’t optimal, since they don’t have electronic access to patients’ medical records like we do.”
Dr. Offerman, himself a toxicologist, believed there had to be a better way. He studied the data and found that a large, integrated health care organization like Kaiser Permanente Northern California with over 4 million members had a demonstrable need for a dedicated toxicology service.
In 2010, Dr. Offerman successfully argued his case and recruited two toxicologists to launch the service. “Then we quickly realized three toxicologists weren’t enough and added a fourth,” he says.
Today the KP Northern California Toxicology Service provides 250-to-300 telemedicine consults a month to emergency medicine, critical care, pediatric intensivist, and hospital-based medicine physicians. The service leverages our integration and the KP HealthConnect electronic health record system so that any physician at any KP Northern California medical center can access a toxicologist 24/7 for a virtual consultation.
“The service is the first of its kind in all of Kaiser Permanente, and allows us to provide consistent, efficient and expert care across Northern California,” says Karen Murrell, MD, TPMG Physician Lead for emergency medicine. “None of it would have been possible without Dr. Offerman’s energy, passion, and enthusiasm.”