Kaiser Permanente: Save Trees and Thrive

kaiser forest

Kaiser Permanente is prescribing big doses of sustainability in the sixth season of its $50 million Thrive ad campaign.

Two new ads – Emerald Cities and Connected – reinforce the health care provider’s commitment to the planet by dramatically reducing paper use – no small task for an industry long married to countless charts and forms. For most of us, being ordered to “Fill this out” is as rote as, “Hop on the scale,” and just as painful.

The Emerald pitch describes how Kaiser is allowing patients access to their own medical data via Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, the world’s largest civilian electronic health record.

Not just a handy core tool for patients, the online system is apparently saving thousands of trees annually. And, as of September 2009, Kaiser estimates its members completed six million doctor’s visits without using one gallon of gasoline. Guess they got the help they were seeking by going online.


“We will be entirely paperless by 2010 and these ads illustrate how we are doing our part in some way to help the environment,” I’m told by Lisa Ryan, Director of National Advertising at Kaiser. “Having a healthy environment creates a healthy community that helps individuals thrive.”

In these appealing ads, actress Allison Janney, the KP spokeswoman since 2004, drives home the point in her now familiar, smooth-as-a-surgical-glove delivery:

“By putting an end to paper medical records, we have ushered health into the digital age.”

To paraphrase the tagline: I think that I shall never see, a 62-page medical report as lovely as a tree.

“Our ode to trees talks to the fact that when you have online capabilities and a way to connect, it  does eliminate the need to drive to a facility or to an office visit,” says Ryan.

The Connected spot highlights the convenience of securely e-mailing your doctor, checking your medical records, reviewing test results and booking appointments online. This spares not just trees but the stress of being forced to listen to bad “music” after being placed on hold the second your doctor’s receptionist answer the line.


Kaiser clinicians are digitally connected to each other, which ultimately helps them stay connected to  members. The closing line of the ad summarizes, “At Kaiser Permanente, we believe that if knowledge is power, shared knowledge is even more powerful.”


Personally, I have struggled to attain the elusive power of shared knowledge while advocating for loved ones at hospitals where overworked, impatient doctors seemed agitated when pressed for too much info. Getting them to return phone calls was even harder. Then again, my family doesn’t use Kaiser. Maybe their doctors are more generous.

“Our primary care physicians are at center of who we are and we have great accessibility in person, on the phone and email,” says Ryan. “Ive had great experience with my own doc whom I have spoken to on the phone and through email. All of our new alternative ways to reach out and stay connected really help.”

I was glad to see the green connection extends to its Thrive website, which give readers tips on being “thriving communities” by buying locally-grown food, using fewer shopping bags, making their own cleaning supplies and avoiding exposure to chemicals in the home.

Ryan told me all of this effort, including the ad campaign, has been an extension of proven sustainability practices at Kaiser’s newly-built facilities, such as centers in Modesto and Santa Clara, using solar panels, pavement treatments to recycle run off water and friendly denim material in the walls as green insulation.

“The advertising is a great bridge between the sustainability message and the innovation of who we are,” Ryan  says. “It was a huge undertaking to go digital and to retrain the care staff, but it all speaks to our overall concern with the health of individuals and the community. ”

Prior to the green thrust, Kaiser treated us to daily ads on prevention, reminding our unhealthy nation that the more we exercise, eat well and get screened for diseases, the less we will have to spend on health care.

I think the ads resonate with the radio-listening masses facing poor health along with a poor health care system that has yet to be reformed.

With $50 million invested in the message, let’s hope Kaiser proves to be one of the needed cures.

Images: Kaiser Permanente, Wiki

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.