Fast growing companies: Changes, innovation in health care driving growth

As the health care landscape across the North Bay -- indeed, across much of the country -- undergoes rapid transformation, many organizations are already growing in anticipation of the changes that lay ahead.

From physician networks, to drug makers to physician insurers, North Bay companies are experiencing growth -- and quickly.

The Marin-Sonoma IPA changed its name as a reflection of its growth further into Sonoma County -- when earlier this spring it grew from some 300 physicians to nearly 500 in a matter of months.

The independent practice association already had a large presence in Marin and a noticeable presence in Sonoma County. But it quickly went to having a wide presence in Sonoma as it expanded its network to include every hospital in the county expect for Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente facilities, which both have their own medical foundations.

The IPA’s network originally included Marin General, Novato Community, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley hospitals. When it announced its expansion further to Sonoma County, it included Palm Drive and Healdsburg District hospitals. It also added the county’s largest hospital -- Santa Rosa Memorial -- by adding physicians from the Annadel Medical Group, which contracts exclusively with St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare, the medical foundation of Memorial’s parent company, St. Joseph Health System--Sonoma County.

The expanded network is expected to help district hospitals maintain access to an ever-shrinking pool of physicians, particularly as health care organizations such as Sutter and Kaiser invest heavily into their foundations.

The expanded IPA has also been described as an early development of the Affordable Care Act, which encourages accountable care organizations, or ACOs. Joel Criste, chief executive officer of the Marin-Sonoma IPA and the Prima Medical Group, a subset of the IPA, said he expected the physicians’ network to be included as an ACO under guidelines by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as a network that can reduce costs by integrating more facilities and doctors.

The push into Sonoma County came less than a year after the Prima Medical Group, what was then just the Marin IPA and Marin General Hospital formed a foundation, which was seen then as a key step for Marin General as it transferred operations away from Sutter Health.***

Another fast-growing side of health care is the vast world of biotech. And North Bay companies are no exception from this growing trend.

Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical, which was started by former BioMarin chief medical officer Emil Kakkis, earlier this year closed on $45 million in series A financing to develop treatments for rare diseases.

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