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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, December 17, 2012, 6:43 am

Health Care: Three area hospitals receive top Leapfrog ranking

Also: Sonoma Valley Hospital in contract for hospitalist services

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    Dan Verel, Business Journal Staff ReporterThree North Bay hospitals received  “A” grades for patient safety from the Leapfrog Group, considered the industry standard for hospital surveys.

    Kaiser Permanente hospitals in San Rafael and Santa Rosa and St. Joseph Health-operated Petaluma Valley Hospital each received the ranking from the Leapfrog Group, an independent national nonprofit run by employers and other large purchasers of health benefits.

    The group released its first-ever hospital safety scores in June, but updated the scores this month with more recent data, resulting in Kaiser’s San Rafael hospital to move from a “B” grade to an “A” grade, according to Kaiser, while its Santa Rosa hospital maintained its initial “A” grade.

    Judy Coffey

    “Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Marin and Sonoma counties are consistently recognized for providing high-quality health care in the communities we serve,” said Judy Coffey, RN, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser’s Marin-Sonoma region. “This score reflects the ability of our physicians, nurses, and staff to put our patients and members first.”

    The Hospital Safety Score was calculated under the guidance of The Leapfrog Group’s Blue Ribbon Expert Panel using publicly available data on patient injuries, medical and medication errors, and infections. U.S. hospitals were assigned an A, B, C, D, or F for their safety. Data from more than 2,600 hospitals in the U.S. were examined.

    “The ‘A’ grade from Leapfrog for our hospital demonstrates our commitment to patient safety each and every day,” said Jane Read, vice president of operations at Petaluma Valley. “Providing high quality care and ensuring patient safety are always our top priorities. We are proud of this recognition and this tribute to the hard work of our doctors, nurses and hospital team.”

    ***

    Sound Physicians, a Tacoma-based hospitalist organization,  announced an agreement to provide comprehensive hospitalist services at Sonoma Valley Hospital.

    The more than 500-strong physician group said it will introduce performance management solutions to the 83-bed district hospital, including use of its SoundConnect workflow and informatics system to help improve inpatient care outcomes as well as financial performance.  The group will also help with building “high-performing hospitalist practices,” including strong physician leadership, implementation of lean processes to drive results and core services of revenue cycle management and a track record of physician recruiting success.

    “Sound Physicians brings proven hospitalist program experience and a strong focus on creating infrastructure, fostering medical staff and patient satisfaction, and managing quality and financial performance goals,” Dr. Robert Cohen, chief medical officer of Sonoma Valley Hospital, said in a statement.

    In 2011, Sound Physicians acquired the Bay Area Inpatient Group, which is associated with Fairfield-based NorthBay Healthcare.  Sound Physicians said it provides inpatient services to more than 50 hospitals and post-acute care centers around the U.S.

    In other news, the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District recently selected Bill Boerum as its new board chair while welcoming welcoming a new board member in Jane Hirsch.

    Mr. Boerum, the longest serving member on the district board, was unanimously approved as the board chair, replacing Peter Hohorst, who will become first vice president of the board. Ms. Hirsch, who recently ran unopposed for her seat, was voted the second vice president of the board. Sharon Nevins will continue to serve as the board’s treasurer and Kevin Carruth will maintain his position as secretary.

    ***

    Operation Access, a nonprofit whose mission is to mobilize a network of medical volunteers, hospitals and community health centers to provide access to surgeons for low-income and uninsured people, recently held its celebration of volunteers at Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma.

    The event was sponsored by virtually all of the North Bay’s health care heavy weights, among them: Kaiser Permanente, Marin General Hospital, Meritage Medical Network, Novato Community Hospital, St. Joseph Health, Sonoma County and Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation.

    The nonprofit, formed in 1993, recently treated its 10,000 patient in Santa Rosa last week. It has some 130 volunteers between Marin and Sonoma counties.

    “It really brings out the best in all health care providers to simplify the services that (people) need,” said Doug Grey, one the founders and a former Kaiser physician.

    Operation Access has a  network of over 1,100 medical volunteers, 33 medical facilities, and over 90 referring community clinics in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Sonoma counties  and has coordinated medical care valued in excess of $55 million.

    ***

    Partnership Health Plan of California recently honored the Petaluma Health Center for achieving 100 percent of the nonprofit, managed Medi-Cal health plans’ goals. The recognition is the first award given by Fairfield-based Partnership, meaning Petaluma Health Center is the only provider to achieve the designation. 

    ***

    Sutter Health announced the appointment of Stephen Nolte as chief executive officer of Sutter’s recently announced health plan, which is currently in development in Sacramento.

    Since 2010, Mr. Nolte has served as principal vice president for health and human services consulting for OptumInsight (formerly Ingenix Consulting). In his consulting role, he helped lead Sutter’s health plan-related preparation over the past several months, including  oversight of the health care network’s August application for a Knox-Keene License with the California Department of Managed Health Care.

    Upon receiving state approval,  Sutter Health expects HMO products would first become available in the greater Sacramento and Central Valley regions in 2014. Sutter would then seek approval to extend the HMO’s service area to other regions.

    ***

    St. Helena Hospital recently raised $1.5 million at its annual foundation gala held at Silver Oak Cellars in Oakville. The event, named Harmony, this year honored Valerie Boyd and Jeff Gagiulo for their commitment in support of cardiovascular services at St. Helena Napa Valley and the Adventist Heart Institute.

    ***

    State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, plans to introduce legislation that would expand the powers of nurse practitioners, pharmacists and other health care workers as a means to address a shortage of primary care physicians, a problem that experts have long warned will be exacerbated by health care reform. The legislation could be introduced in early 2013, according to California Healthline, a trade journal. California’s health care workforce will have difficulty meeting the goals of the Affordable Care Act without the legislation, according to Sen. Hernandez.

    In other legislative news, Congressman Mike Honda, a Democrat, introduced a bill that aims to spur further innovation in the mobile health arena and other areas of health care technology.

    The bill, known as as the Healthcare Innovation and Marketplace Technologies Act, would require the Food and Drug Administration to set up an office specifically dedicated to wireless technology and health care. The bill would also establish a Health and Human Services program to support developers of mobile health technology and help them meet privacy regulations. 

    Submit items for this column to dan.verel@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4271.

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