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Council on Aging plans own product line; North Bay Medical adds officeOne of the North Bay’s largest in-home senior care providers has launched an online profile for families to connect and track the well-being of their loved ones.

The “community care portal” unveiled earlier this month includes blogs, photos, messaging and scheduling tools as well as daily assessments that track the senior’s physical welfare over time.

“The American culture is one where often families scatter. Many of our clients’ children live in New York, Hawaii, all over the world. Often, they don’t know what's going on with their parent, and this tool allows anyone, anywhere the ability to log on and feel more connected,” said Sequoia Senior Solutions Chief Financial Officer Stanton Lawson. He and his wife Gabriella Ambrosi, who serves as chief executive officer, launched the company a little over six years ago, growing from a team of two to more than 230 certified and bonded caregivers.

Sequoia commenced implementation of the product in October, and the service was rolled out to the clients this month. The Petaluma-based business is using a Web platform by Skokie, Ill.-based RemCare, a startup launched in 2008 by two 10-year health care tech veterans, Jim Wills and Ben Albert.

Previous to launching his own business, Mr. Lawson worked with Autodesk and said he has always wanted to implement a tech strategy into Sequoia’s offerings.

“It is a big decision to have strangers in your parent’s home, especially if they are on the other side of the country. The biggest advantage we saw to the RemCare tool was the ability to improve transparency, communication and making sure families are informed and comfortable,” Mr. Lawson said.

Family members can sign on using a secure login with password and see if their parent or loved one went to the doctor, who their caretaker is for the day or what their demeanor or activity level was like during that visit. The profiles also include a blog that different family members can use to communicate with each other or the caretaker and managers.

The site includes a daily assessment of the client against various indicators, ranking each on a scale of one to five. The scores can then be aggregated and tracked over time.

Sequoia is offering the service for a nominal fee, and the owners expect at least half of their clients' families to use the software.

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In less than three months in the top spot for the Council on Aging in Santa Rosa, Chief Executive Officer Marianne McBride is on her way to launching an innovative new program she hopes will offer self-sustainability to the 43-year-old nonprofit for the first time.

After working without a CEO for more than eight months, Ms. McBride was already faced with a considerable amount of catch up when she was appointed as leader to Sonoma County’s largest provider of senior support services. She worked as development director for the council for the previous four years and officially assumed the new role Aug. 11.

Before she concluded her first day, the former United Way administrator had detailed a specific 30-, 60- and 90-day plan, beginning with identifying a common mission, role and goals.

“Having a firmly stated mission and action plan I think is one of the most important things a nonprofit can do. It keeps the team focused, and it allows everyone to step back, look at the big picture and prioritize,” she said.

With internal organizational initiatives complete, Ms. McBride said she is turning her attention to new revenue generation. The $3.7 million organization, perhaps best known for its Meals on Wheels program, operates seven programs from 13 locations and receives six different streams of government funding, but it still relies on fundraising for about 30 percent of its revenue.

By Jan. 1, the council plans to launch its first commercial product line, frozen meals for those on strict “renal” diets, or those with a particular kind of kidney dysfunction. The group has hired a dietician to help design the meals, and officials are completing a feasibility study. Preliminary prototypes include ground beef casserole, teriyaki beef and green beans, oven-fried chicken and rainbow pasta, sweet and sour chicken over rice, Salisbury steak and noodles and ginger pork and Asian vegetables.

The organization is still completing a business plan for the launch, but it hopes to begin by offering the meals through the Meals on Wheels program and through select grocers.

“I don’t anticipate it will be a big money maker at first, but my long-term goal is to continue organizational excellence and provide self-sustainability,” she said.

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One of the county’s largest specialty groups opened the doors to its third location at 6575 Oakmont Drive.

The North Bay Medical Group added a new urology specialty office in east Santa Rosa. The group founded in 1998 currently includes six providers that work from an office a few blocks from Memorial and an outpatient surgery center on Sonoma Highway. The group provides urology, general surgery, gastroenterology, pain management and anesthesia.

“There has been a huge growth in the kind of procedures that can be done on an outpatient basis, primarily from those not wanting to incur the expense of going to the hospital,” said general surgeon and founding medical group member Dr. Eric Kraut.

“We decided to add to that with the office in Oakmont because we saw it as being an underserved area. A lot of people don’t realize it’s a community of about 5,000 people, many of whom are over the age 50 that need access to medical care. We thought it would be a good service to come to them rather than make them come to us.”

The new 10,000-square-foot location opened in early August and includes two specialists, but the doctors are in the recruiting process.

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In the wake of intensified pressure from state cuts and more expected in years to come, Alliance Medical Center of Windsor and Healdsburg has begun an effort to identify efficiencies and reduce costs collaboratively with staff.

“We have been able to stay healthy throughout the economy and the state cuts, but the next couple years will be even more rough on the state, and therefore on us, and we wanted to identify how we can become as tough as we can,” said clinic CEO Jack Neureuter.

“We thought it would be better to be proactive rather than reactive to cuts we know are on the way.”

The plan called the “Just One More” campaign was launched this month with a survey of all staff members by an independent, third party. The information will then be compiled and common themes and priorities identified before the end of November.

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Submit items for this column to D. Ashley Furness at afurness@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.