Meet Mark Sockell, chief medical officer of Meritage Medical Network in Marin, Napa, Sonoma counties
Mark Sockell, M.D., an internal medicine and geriatrics physician, is chief medical officer for Meritage Medical Network, a network of physicians providing care management to patients in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties.
Mental health services have become a focus of health care providers in the North Bay since the series of wildfires. For your patients, what strategies have you employed to address this issue? For your employees, what are the challenges faced by your organization in addressing their post-fire needs?
Meritage has worked hard to make sure that all of the health plans we work with have an adequate and accessible behavioral health network. In addition, Meritage provides our patients with a behavioral health care manager (a certified therapist) whose function it is to advocate for our patients and ensure they connect with a behavioral health provider and receive the services they need.
What obstacles are policy and politics putting in the way of providing quality health care? How much do these challenge your organization’s ability to serve patients?
The administrative burden on primary care physicians continues to increase – physicians spend approximately 16 minutes per patient on electronic health record documentation and health plan requirements; this is almost five hours per day! At the same time, there is pressure on the primary care physician to see more patients per day, leading to physician burnout and dissatisfaction.
Meritage continues to look for ways to make it easier for our physicians to manage transitions of care, identify care gaps and document chronic conditions. Meritage also offers primary care physicians incentives for extended hours, open panels, and telemedicine visits.
What specific accomplishment of your organization in the past year or so do you wish to highlight, and why?
Meritage has been particularly successful in working with our Medicare Advantage patients to improve their care. Our specially trained nurse care managers help these patients transitioning from hospital to home (or hospital to skilled nursing to home), offering home visits for patients with complex conditions, and providing patients with an opportunity to discuss their end of life wishes.
Tell us one person or situation connected to your organization inspired you in the past year and why it was so memorable.
Our care team (chief medical officer, medical director(s), nurse care managers, behavioral health care manager and care coordinators) meets weekly to discuss the most complex patients in our network to identify how to optimize their care and offer care management services.
These meetings inspire me because they remind me why I went into medicine: to “cure disease” whenever possible and to support our patients optimize their function and enjoyment of life. We, at Meritage, are lucky we are to have such a wonderful care team.
Do you have growth plans for your organization this year, such as adding services or increasing staff?
Meritage will continue to grow our management services capabilities including providing consulting services to other regional medical organizations. We will also expand our care management services to provide even more support for our patients and physicians.