Kevin Barney first learned he had hypertension a few years ago and although his blood pressure was only slightly elevated, it was a nagging concern. He took two medications to keep his blood pressure under control, but it bothered him that this condition put him at risk of developing more serious health problems.

And so when he found out that USC Premier Care had launched a hypertension program, which is open to and free of charge for USC PPO and USC Trojan Care EPO patients, he jumped at the chance to enroll.

USC Premier Care was designed to improve the quality of service for USC employees and to develop tools that make seeing their doctors and staying healthy simple and easy to use.

The hypertension program is the first of a suite of new services created by USC Premier Care all aimed at offering ways to help employees get healthy. In addition to the hypertension program, USC Premier Care also has rolled out a program to help patients manage diabetes and to help its members choose a primary care physician that meets their needs and the needs of their family.

There are plans in the works to start programs aimed at managing a host of chronic illnesses, help patients improve their fitness and stay on top of important screenings, USC Premiere Care administrators said.

“We want to make sure we continually improve the quality of service for our employees,” said Ernest Schwefler, chief contracting and managed care officer at Keck Medicine of USC. “At the end of the day, we want to offer services to make them healthier and more satisfied with their health care.”

Even USC PPO and USC Trojan Care EPO patients who do not sign up for a specific service, such as the hypertension or diabetes program, can benefit from USC Premier Care. They can reach out to the patient navigators, who have a dedicated phone number, to make appointments for them and to get them in to see their doctors as quickly as possible. Patients also can speak to a USC Premier Care nurse if they have questions. USC Premier Care also can help patients understand the range of services available to them through their insurance that they may not know about.

Keck Medicine of USC employee Kevin Barney is taking advantage of a new program offered by USC Premier Care that will help him get healthier. (Photo/Ricardo Carrasco III)

Barney, who is a project manager in information services at Keck Medicine, learned through the USC Premier Care hypertension program that working directly with a pharmacist and an occupational therapist — two medical professionals he had never consulted about his blood pressure — could be essential in managing his condition.

Through both in-person visits and follow-ups on the phone, Barney worked with a pharmacist, who adjusted his medication, taught him to accurately take his blood pressure at home and keep a blood pressure journal to give her insights to his specific needs.

The occupational therapist inspired Barney to get more serious about exercise and healthy eating and became a critical resource on days when his blood pressure was higher than it had been.

A few months later, had significantly unburdened both his body and his mind of the effects of his high blood pressure. He lost 15 pounds and has been taken off one of his medications and his blood pressure is now at a safe level. He also has a much more optimistic outlook from the tools and education he received from his extended medical team.

“I learned a lot about managing my blood pressure better,” Barney said. “The results have been great. I am healthier and I feel more in control of my health.”

For more information about USC Premier Care, call (833) SC-NURSE (833-726-8773) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. or email

— Hope Hamashige