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NOVATO -- With continually rising healthcare costs, independent physician practices and groups are searching for more efficient, money-saving tools to help them manage their businesses and comply with government regulations.

Many are turning to medical back office technology solution providers to handle billing and collections, electronic health records (EHR), practice and revenue cycle management as well as to provide an integrated, widely-distributed and secure network to connect them with each other and hospitals.

To keep up with demand for these services, Marin Medical Practice Concepts (MMPC) moved to larger quarters in August at 100 Wood Hollow Dr., Suite 160, in the same Novato building as BioMarin’s corporate headquarters.

“We continue to grow our client base.” said Lynn Mitchell, president of MMPC.  “MMPC has a contract to manage all of [Marin Healthcare District’s] new community clinics as they are added by the district.”

For over 17 months, MMPC has been offering practice management services to the Marin Healthcare District for their six 1206(b) clinics, including: North Marin Internal Medicine Specialists in Novato; the San Rafael Medical Center; Soluna Sausalito Health Center; West Marin Medical Clinic in Pt. Reyes as well as for Marin Internal Medicine, formerly the Marin Medical Group, in Greenbrae.

MMPC was founded in 1996 by a small group of physicians who wanted to provide advanced business services to physician practices in Marin County and the Bay Area. Now the firm serves clients throughout Northern California. 

The company formerly occupied approximately 9,000 square feet of office space at 100 Rowland Way. The new office has 12,973 square feet, more than enough for the company’s 81 employees with room for more. 

“We decided to make this move for several reasons,” Ms. Mitchell said.

“It was a natural response to growth. We want to add a call center and triage nurses, as well as have more space for our support staff working with our practices. Today we have from 300 to 400 physician clients and we’re expanding this customer base by 10 percent to 15 percent annually. We were able to obtain highly favorable terms.”

“We are next door to Quadrant Data Systems, our primary technology provider of Internet access, virtual servers and our proprietary physician network.”

It is this server farm that forms the backbone for MMPC’s integrated, physician practice network for clinical integration that enables online collaboration and data sharing -- whether each individual practice has one doctor or 35 or more in specialty or multiple specialty groups.

MMPC established the first fully operational, inter-practice shared EHR system in California. The company also has a secure backup data storage facility in Fairfield to ensure record survivability.

The benefits of EHR are many, including the streamlining of charting practices, adding information electronically to searchable database records that prevent potential hazards, improving patient safety and alerting providers to critical information in real time.

“When I open my computerized patient notes, another doctor on our private network can view them,” said Dr. Joel Sklar, chairman and a founder of MMPC and chief medical officer at Marin General. “But in order for another doctor to see these notes, the patient must be registered with both doctors and grant the necessary permissions to comply with privacy protection requirements.”

Dr. Sklar is also a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Associates of Marin and San Francisco.

“MMPC is already providing a robust inter-physician network used for electronic prescribing. Another vital feature of this system is that an alarm will be sent if a physician prescribes medications, let’s say for a diabetic patient, that are contra-indicated based on the totality of the patient’s medical history.

“We consider this to be a form of artificial intelligence, and one that is becoming increasingly necessary, given the number of drugs, interaction issues and multiple treatment protocols available,” he said.

A significant stimulus to MMPC’s growth is a government mandate driving the adoption of EHR by 2014 and better communications among physicians.

Federal legislation is offering financial incentives through Medicare to get physicians and hospitals to convert to EHR.   The downside of non-compliance with the EHR mandate is that penalties will be assessed if such systems are not in place by 2016.

“We have already helped our clients obtain approximately $300,000 in Federal cash payments for implementing EHR, with more to come,” Dr. Sklar said.

Beginning in 2011, doctors who demonstrate they are "meaningful users" of an EHR system will be eligible for tens of thousands of dollars (up to $40,000 per physician). Hospitals are also eligible to several millions of dollars in cash paybacks for making electronic upgrades.

According to Dr. Sklar, the definition of “meaningful use” changes each year, this fact alone makes it prudent for physicians to become part of a solution provider network that is keeping up with these revised requirements and making necessary modifications.

The push to EHR is part of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act passed in 2009. The law requires EHR conversion, with incentives phasing out over time. Federal dollars will pay for planning and training.

One of the act's key goals is to make the transfer of records between medical centers and doctors easier.

“The ultimate objective is to connect all physician practices and hospitals in a community wide Health Information Exchange (HIE), linking together private networks -- such as the one currently available from MMPC -- that will integrate access to all patient scripts within other provider networks.

Today this EHR and networking approach supports the strategic initiatives being adopted in the medical community. Locally, the Marin General and Sonoma Valley Hospitals are among a growing number of medical institutions embracing these new concepts.

“Hospitals are aware that the outpatient physician business is different, but that these practices need to be integrated with their own internal EHR systems. Health care reform is now the major driving force behind universal EHR implementation,” Ms. Mitchell said.

“MMPC, as a physician owned and directed group, is committed to the success of independent medical practices, and the HIE vision, as this environment gets more complex and challenging.”

The tenant agents for 100 Wood Hollow Drive are Matt Storms and Matt Wagner of Keegan & Coppin. The landlord is Lexington Lion Wood Hollow, with landlord agents Brian Eisberg, Haden Ongaro and Mark Carrington of Cornish and Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank.