Sutter Health will expand its Advanced Illness Management initiative into Sonoma County, marking the fist major expansion of the program that focuses heavily on late-stage chronic illness and best treatment options for such conditions.

The AIM program started as a pilot in Sutter's Sacramento Sierra Region and showed positive outcomes, resulting in the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation giving Sutter a three-year, $13 million Health Care Innovation Award to support expansion of the program throughout Northern California.

The AIM program will “live in Sonoma County’s service areas that include the Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation and the Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa," said Lisa Amador, a spokeswoman for Sutter in Santa Rosa. The next scheduled launch is in San Mateo County on Dec. 18, while launches throughout the rest of the Sutter Health network in Northern California are scheduled to roll out from now through the end of 2013,  Ms. Amador said.

The AIM program provides nurse-led care management, palliative care, and advance care planning for patients with late-stage chronic illness.

“AIM uses a nurse-led interdisciplinary team to bridge the gaps between the hospital, the community physician’s office, and home for our sickest patients,” said Brad Stuart, M.D., senior medical director for Sutter Care at Home.  “Quality, affordable care for all of our patients is a priority and the expansion of AIM system-wide complements our mission and values. AIM supports giving the right care, at the right time, at the right level of care for the patient’s goals."

In the Sacramento Sierra Region, the AIM program, since 2010, showed reduced hospitalizations and improved care transitions, according to Sutter. That helped contribute to improved quality of life for patients as well as significant savings for the health system, including a 75 percent reduction in ICU days, an average decrease of one or more days for hospital stays, and more than 50 percent reduction in hospitalizations at 90 days post-enrollment.  Other findings included high patient and family satisfaction scores -- 4.7 out of 5 -- and reduced costs for payers by $5,000 per patient at 90 days post-enrollment.

For more information about AIM, visit http://www.sutterhealth.org/quality/focus/advanced-illness-management.html.***

The Petaluma Health Center recently added five new providers, a move aimed at increasing capacity in preparation for a looming influx of patients expected when full implementation of the Affordable Care Act occurs in just over a year.

With Obamacare effectively a sure bet, the Petaluma Health Center -- the largest provider of primary care in Southern Sonoma County -- is expecting as many as 5,000 additional patients on top of an already increasing demand. In 2011, when the federally qualified health center moved into a 53,000 square foot, nearly $16 million facility to accommodate growth,  it saw its patient volume increase from 16,000 to 18,000, officials said.

The new providers include a family medicine physician, an internal medicine doctor, a geropsychologist and two physician assistants. They are:

Dr. Jose Chibras, an internal medicine specialist, who has 15 years of experience in health care administration and patient care in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties. There, he served as Salud Para La Gente chief medical officer and interim CEO.  Dr. Chibras is also a participant in a UCSF leadership fellowship through the California Healthcare Foundation.  He said he joined the health center to be part of a "medical home," where emphasis is on preventive care.

Dr. Carlin Chi, a family practice physician. She completed her family practice residency at UCSF and received her medical degree from Harvard University. She worked previously as a physician for San Mateo County for eight years, and was ready to move to a new health care setting and seek new professional learning challenges.

Dr. Todd Fenimore, a geropsychologist who joined the center to specialize in mental health care for seniors. He has a doctorate from the California Institute of Integral Studies and has coordinated client services for the Access Institute for Psychological Services in San Francisco, and been a psychologist at Napa State Hospital. He also teaches geropsychology at Sonoma State University and has had a private practice in the area.

Kimberly Warburton, a physician assistant, who has worked in the medical field for nine years including surgery, pediatrics, eating disorders and nursing homes. She has a joint master’s degree in public health and physician assistant studies from Touro University. She worked at the health center for her student rotation in family practice.

Darcie Larimore-Arenas, a physician assistant, who had three student rotations at the health center while working towards her master’s degree from Touro University in public health and physician assistant studies. As a student, she also wrote a grant for the center, which was funded by Kaiser Permanente. ***

Dr. Matt Willis, MD, MPH, started his new position as the public health officer for Marin County last week.  Dr. Willis was selected by the Marin County Board of Supervisors on November 13, 2012.

He was previously an internal medicine physician at Marin Community Clinics and served as a part-time deputy public health officer for Marin County. Dr. Willis received a medical degree from Temple University and a masters in public health from Harvard University. After completing his residency at Harvard’s Cambridge Hospital, he spent six years in the U.S. Public Health Service, including service as a an epidemic intelligence officer at the Centers for Disease Control. He is board certified in internal medicine....

Submit items for this column to Dan Verel, dan.verel@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257.