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May 2009


Guidelines for swine flu testing


As the swine flu situation continues to evolve, health officials in Sonoma County have asked providers to focus on the following types of patients for testing:

Hospitalized patients with ILI (influenza-like illness) who do not have another diagnosis.

Outpatients with ILI in one or more of the following categories:

* Patient is a contact of a confirmed swine influenza A (H1N1) case.

* Patient is in a high-risk setting for transmission (e.g., school, prison).

* Patient is part of a cluster of people (like a family) with ILI (only one patient needs laboratory confirmation).

* Patient returned from Mexico or another area with a high number of confirmed cases of swine flu within 7 days of illness onset or cared for ill household members with this travel history.

For guidelines on submitting specimens, call the Sonoma County Public Health lab at 565-4711 or visit sonoma-county.org/health/ph/. For the latest official information on swine flu, visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/swineflu or California Public Health at cdph.ca.gov.

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Feds vow to raise Medicare rates in Sonoma County


A summit called in mid-April by House Speaker Nancy Pelosiand Rep. Sam Farr to address the long-standing Medicare geographic paymentinequity in Sonoma and 11 other California counties concluded with a commitmentfrom federal officials to tackle the problem this year.

“This is a welcome breakthrough on a problem that hasreduced access to care for years,” said CMA President Dev A. GnanaDev, MD. “Ascosts have risen in places like Santa Barbara and San Diego counties, Medicarereimbursements have not kept up, and that has resulted in fewer doctors beingable to serve those patients.”

The Medicare payment formula includes a geographicadjustment factor (GAF) that adjusts the payment rate for local geographicmarket conditions. The goal is to base physician reimbursement on the cost ofproviding care in a particular geographic region.

The formula calculates a GAF for every California county,and assigns each county to one of nine Medicare regions in the state, calledpayment localities. Because of rapid growth and development in recent years,physicians in some California counties, including Sonoma, have practice coststhat are up to 10% greater than the average costs of other counties in theirpayment localities.

The Medicare summit included members of key House and Senatecommittees, along with representatives from CMA and Medicare. Participantsacknowledged that something must be done about the payment inequities butstopped short of agreeing on a solution.

SCMA and CMA have spent much of the last decade exploringpossible solutions to the Medicare reimbursement problem. Because federal lawrequires that geographic payment changes be budget neutral, CMA will only backa resolution that holds California’s other rural counties harmless.

For more information, contact CMA Vice President ElizabethMcNeil at 415-882-3376 or emcneil@cmanet.org.

 

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Dr Catherine Gutfreund nominated as SCMA president-elect


Dr. Catherine Gutfreund, a family medicine physician atKaiser Santa Rosa, has been nominated by her colleagues as SCMApresident-elect. Nominees for the board of directors include Drs. Brad Drexler,Phyllis Senter, Leonard Klay and Jose Morales. Nominees for the CMA delegationinclude Dr. Lela Emad and Drs. Senter, Klay and Gutfreund.

SCMA members will vote on the nominees in June. For more information,contact Cynthia Melody at cmelody@scma.org or 525-4359. book


RSVP now for SCMA Wine & Cheese Reception on May 28


All SCMA members and their spouses or guests are invited to SCMA’s annual Wine & Cheese Reception on Thursday evening, May 28. This year’s reception will be hosted by Dr. Richard and Julie Andolsen at their private vineyard near Healdsburg.

In addition to cheese and Andolsen Vineyard wines, the reception includes an informal alfresco dinner. There is no cost for SCMA members and their spouses or guests; the cost for nonmembers is $35 per person.

Reservations are required. To RSVP (and receive the address), contact Rachel Pandolfi at rpandolfi@scma.org or 525-4375.

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Still time to sign up for Human Race or SCMA Alliance Garden Tour


On May 9, a team from the SCMA Alliance will participate inthe annual Human Race, which raised more than $1 million for charity last year.Physicians and staff can support Team Alliance by signing up to participate inthe race or helping at the Team Alliance booth. To sign up, contact Ann Hurd at537-1031 or annhurd08@comcast.net or Kathleen Cortez at 483-4953 orkkcortez@sonic.net.

On May 15 and 16, the Alliance is sponsoring its annualGarden Tour in Sonoma. Participants can take self-guided tours of privategardens, enroll in gardening workshops, and enter a raffle for free dinners atCyrus Restaurant or the Farmhouse Inn.

Tickets for the Garden Tour are just $40; an optional lunchat Meritage Restaurant is $22. To purchase tickets, visit www.scmaa.org or callJanet Shane at 578-4537.

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Delivery of current Sonoma Medicine delayed for some subscribers


Because of problems with the post office, delivery of theSpring issue of Sonoma Medicine was delayed to some subscribers. The magazinewas mailed on April 2 and should have been received by mid-April at the latest.

If you still have not received your copy, you can view theonline version at scma.org. If you prefer, contact the editor, Steve Osborn, at525-4325 or sosborn@scma.org, and he will send you a copy via unstoppablefirst-class mail, while supplies last.

 

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California Supreme Court sides with CMA in peer review case


The California Supreme Court has issued a ruling that prevents peer review “hearing officers” from usurping the clinical decisions of the peer review body. In an amicus brief, CMA urged the court to place limits on the authority of hearing officers.

Hearing officers are usually laypeople without the expertise needed to make decisions on medical disciplinary charges. In the case at hand, a hearing officer’s decree to terminate a peer review hearing directly restricted a particular physician’s privileges. The restriction led to the filing of unproven disciplinary reports to state and federal agencies.

By terminating the hearing, the hearing officer essentially made a clinical determination that the physician was medically incompetent to practice at the hospital, thus depriving the physician of a fair hearing before his medical peers.

CMA’s brief argued that the granting of such powers to a hearing officer unlawfully deprives physicians of a fair hearing before their medical peers, and deprives patients of access to their physician of choice.

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Several health-related bills pending before California Legislature


Several CMA-sponsored bills arebeing considered by the California Legislature during its session, along withsome bills that CMA opposes. Highlights appear below.

Adequate reimbursement for vaccines (AB 1201). This CMA-sponsoredbill requires health plans to fully reimburse physicians for the costs ofimmunizations, including purchasing the vaccine, storage, supplies and stafftime. The bill also prohibits health plans from applying copays, deductiblesand other cost-sharing mechanisms to immunizations.

Unlawful Health Insurance Cancellation (AB 2). This CMA-sponsoredbill requires insurers to obtain approval from an independent revieworganization before rescinding a patient’s health insurance.

Car-Pool Lane Access for Physicians (AB 497). This CMA-sponsoredbill would allow physicians to use carpool lanes on the freeway when respondingto an emergency. The bill would expand current law, which allows physicians incertain circumstances to exceed speed limits when responding to emergencies.

Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice (SB 294). CMA is opposing thisbill, which would expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners,allowing them to admit patients to the hospital and be designated as primarycare providers.

Corporate Medicine Bar (AB 648 and SB 726). These CMA-opposed billswould erode the ban on the corporate practice of medicine in California byallowing certain hospitals to hire physicians. Under current law, hospitals arebarred from hiring physicians as employees.

For more on these and otherbills, visit CMA’s Legislative Hot List at cmanet.org/news/hotlist.asp.

 

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Urgent Care Medicine conference in San Diego Sept. 23-25


The American Academy of UrgentCare Medicine is sponsoring a Sept. 23-25 conference in San Diego. Topicsinclude point-of-care chemistry analysis, back pain and otitis media. Up to 13hours of CME are available. To register, visit www.aaucm.org.

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Marsh offers Workers’ Compensation programs


Workers’ Compensation insurancerates may be increasing soon. One rating bureau has recommended a 24% increaseon July 1, and the Department of Insurance is recommending a 5% increase.

The SCMA-sponsored Workers’ Compensationprogram from Marsh offers members a 5% discount (possibly 15%, depending uponwhere you have your group medical coverage). The program is underwritten byEmployers Compensation Insurance Company.

For more information, contactMarsh at 800-842-3761. 

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Volunteers needed for Neighbors in Health


Last year, more than 500 children participated in Neighborsin Health, a day-long event that provides medical care, immunizations, wellchecks and dental exams to uninsured and underinsured children. Organizers hopeto serve even more children at this year’s event, scheduled for August 2. Tovolunteer, visit www.unitedwaywinecountry.org/nih.

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NCMA surgeons in Santa Rosa moving to new office on Fourth Street


The Santa Rosa surgery divisionof Northern California Medical Associates plans to move to a new office inearly May. The address is 1701 Fourth St., Suite 200. Phone (579-2100) and fax(523-0616) remain the same. The surgeons include Drs. Brian Schmidt, RobertWoodbury, Allen Cortez and Abdul Harris.

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Sixteen SCMA physicians receive awards from St. Joseph Health


The St. Joseph Health System ofSonoma County recently presented “Excellence in Patient Satisfaction” awards to21 local physicians, including 16 SCMA members. The awards, based on patientsurveys, honor physicians who provide outstanding care and communication.

The SCMA honorees included Drs.Lance Barlas, Tom Degenhardt, Patrick Devlin, Sanjay Dhar, Tom Dunlap, EldanEichbaum, Joel Erickson, Douglas Green, John Grollmus, Robert Khoo, SusanLogan, Kent Matsuda, Jeannie Pflum, Loie Sauer, Jan Sonander and Gary Stein.

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Residency program selects 12 top graduates for incoming class


From a pool of 400 applicants,the Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency has selected 12 top medical schoolgraduates for its incoming class of 2012. The new residents—10 women and twomen—speak a total of 11 languages, and almost all are fluent in Spanish. Theybegin the residency, which has trained 288 physicians since 1938, on July 1.

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Sumit Kohli, MD
Gastroenterology*
Internal Medicine*
1210 Sonoma Ave. #B
Santa Rosa 95405
544-5093  Fax 528-8444
skohli@santarosagi.org
Univ Delhi 1996

* board certified

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Free orthopedics seminars in Sonoma


Queen of the Valley Medical Center is offering FREE one-hourorthopedic seminars at the Sonoma Community Center during May and June. Thepublic is invited.

* On May 12,beginning at 6:15 p.m., Dr. Daniel Birkbeck will present “Treating HandProblems.”

* On May 20, at6:30 p.m., Dr. Michael Shifflett and Dr. John Diana will present “TreatingArthritis of the Hip and Knee.”

* On June 3, at6:15 p.m., Dr. Stephen Franzino will present “Shoulder Pain: Treatment andRepair.”

For more information on the seminars, call 707-251-3509. TheCommunity Center is located at 276 E. Napa St. in Sonoma.

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Medical Office Space


Small suite available for rent. Three exam rooms, southeastSanta Rosa. Call Connie, 707-525-0211.

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About SCMA


The Sonoma County Medical Association, a 501(c)(6) nonprofitassociation, supports local physicians and their efforts to enhance the healthof the community. Founded in 1858, SCMA is affiliated with the CaliforniaMedical Association and the American Medical Association.

© SCMA 2009
3033 Cleveland Ave. #104
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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To Unsubscribe


You are receiving SCMA News Briefs because you are aphysician or an affiliated medical professional in Sonoma County. If you wishto unsubscribe, contact Steve Osborn at sosborn@scma.org or 707-525-4325.

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April 2009


Physicians need to comply with identity theft rules by May 1


Physicians who bill theirpatients for services, including copays, only have until May 1 to comply withthe federal government’s new “Red Flag Rules” for identity theft detection andprevention. According to the FTC, physicians who bill their patients are“creditors” and are thus subject to the new rules.

CMA and SCMA are offering twoimportant resources to help physicians comply with the new rules:

First, CMA has prepared a free26-page Red Flag Rules Toolkit thatincludes recommendations for designing and implementing an identity theftdetection and prevention program. The toolkit is available on the CMA websiteat www.cmanet.org, or you can contact SCMA for a free copy at 525-4375or rpandolfi@scma.org.

The second resource is a CMA Webinar on the Red Flag Rules from12:30 to 1:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 16. The webinar will focus on howphysicians can comply with the new rules. To register, visit cmanet.org.

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ABOUT SCMA


The Sonoma County Medical Association, a 501(c)(6) nonprofitassociation, supports local physicians and their efforts to enhance the healthof the community. Founded in 1858, SCMA is affiliated with the CaliforniaMedical Association and the American Medical Association.

© SCMA 2009
3033 Cleveland Ave. #104
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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TO UNSUBSCRIBE


You are receiving SCMA News Briefs because you are a physician or an affiliated medical professional in Sonoma County. If you wish to unsubscribe, contact Steve Osborn at sosborn@scma.org or 707-525-4325. book


April 2009


Nominations sought for Partnership Health Plan board of directors


Partnership HealthPlan of California (PHC), a CountyOrganized Health System charged with operating the Managed Medi-Cal program inSolano, Napa and Yolo counties, is scheduled to begin operating in SonomaCounty this October. At that time, PHC will assume care management responsibilityfor almost 50,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries in the county.

For the past three years, PHC has been working with aPlanning Group appointed by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services toimplement Managed Medi-Cal in the county. The SCMA representative on thePlanning Group is Dr. Kirk Pappas.

As part of the implementation plan for Sonoma County, PHCwill soon expand its board of directors to 22 members and provide Sonoma Countywith seven board seats. The PlanningGroup has requested that SCMA identify a physician for consideration as anominee to the PHC board. This is a very important position, as the directorwill represent all Sonoma County physicians on the board that will control howthe Medi-Cal Managed Care program is administered.

The nominee will be submitted for consideration to RitaScardaci, director of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services. She willsubmit the final recommendations to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors forapproval.

Important considerations for identifying candidates includethe ability to:

* Travel to Fairfield for board meetings on a monthly basis(evenings, fourth Wednesday of the month).

* Carry out the fiduciary responsibilities of the board inmeeting the health care needs of Medi-Cal recipients in all counties served byPHC.

The SCMA board of directors is hereby requesting nominationsfor the PHC board position. Applicantsshould submit a letter of interest and a CV to SCMA by April 30. Applicantsshould also indicate if they are interested in participating in a PHC boardsubcommittee. For more information about PHC, visit www.partnershiphp.org.

Applications should be submitted by mail, fax or e-mail toSCMA Executive Director Cynthia Melody at the address below. For questions,call her at 525-4359.

Cynthia Melody
SCMA
3033 Cleveland Ave. #104
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Fax 525-4328
cmelody@scma.org

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Public Health urges increased vaccinations for local children


Sonoma County’s childhood vaccination rates, already among the lowest in California, have become front-page news. Recent reports indicate that vaccination rates in some local private schools are as low as 24%, with certain public districts reporting rates as low as 54%.

A major cause of the low rates appears to be the “personal belief exemptions” (PBEs) that parents can sign to exempt their children from vaccinations. Many parents are signing PBEs because they fear vaccines can cause autism—a theory that has long since been discredited.

“Vaccines are safe and they don’t cause autism,” said Deputy Public Health Director Dr. Mark Netherda. He urged local physicians to present the facts about vaccines, along with this stark reminder: “The diseases that these vaccines prevent can kill your child.”

Childhood vaccines are used to prevent more than a dozen once-common contagious diseases, including measles and pertussis.

Netherda, who has an article about the county’s low vaccination rates in the current issue of Sonoma Medicine, said the situation is becoming more acute. “We are seeing these diseases in Northern California,” he noted. “They are on the rise because people aren’t vaccinating.”

Public Health is developing a plan to improve immunization rates and will probably hold a stakeholder meeting on the topic later this spring. Patient-education materials about vaccines are available from the CDC at www.cdc.gov and from the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.aap.org.

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RSVP now for SCMA Wine & Cheese Reception on May 28


All SCMA members and their spouses or guests are invited toSCMA’s annual Wine & Cheese Reception on Thursday evening, May 28. Thisyear’s reception will be hosted by Dr. Richard and Julie Andolsen at theirprivate vineyard near Healdsburg. The event offers a wonderful opportunity togather with colleagues in a relaxed, convivial setting.

In addition to cheese and Andolsen Vineyard wines, thereception includes an informal alfresco dinner. There is no cost for SCMAmembers and their spouses or guests; the cost for nonmembers is $35 per person.

Reservations are required. To RSVP (and receive the address), contactRachel Pandolfi at rpandolfi@scma.org or 525-4375. book


Reminder: Medicare billing seminar in Santa Rosa on April 7


Registration is still open forthe Palmetto GBA Medicare billing seminar in Santa Rosa on April 7. All staffinvolved with Medicare billing are urged to attend.

The seminar will run from 8:30a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, in the Vesalius Room at the SutterMedical Center of Santa Rosa. The address is 3325 Chanate Rd.

To register, visit www.PalmettoGBA.com/J1B and click on the“Learning and Education” tab. Please note that registration for the seminarmust be completed through Palmetto, not SCMA.

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Sign up for CMA Legislative Day and Leadership Academy


There’s still time to sign up for CMA’s Legislative Day on April 14, and for their Leadership Academy on April 24-26. Both events help get physicians more involved in the all-important political process.

On Legislative Day, physicians from across the state will gather in Sacramento to hear Attorney General Jerry Brown and others discuss health care policy in a series of morning and luncheon briefings. During the afternoon, SCMA members will be able to meet face-to-face with legislators from Sonoma County.

CMA provides all Legislative Day meals and conference materials free of charge. To RSVP, contact Rachel Pandolfi at 525-4375 or rpandolfi@scma.org. SCMA is coordinating carpools.

The Leadership Academy, which offers 17.5 hours of CME, will be held April 24-26 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Topics include health system reform in a new era of Washington politics; the “medical home” and other emerging models for delivering quality care; the promises and perils of hospital EHR initiatives; and health disparities.

The cost is just $745 for SCMA members or $1,045 for nonmembers. Reduced rates are available for staff and for single-day tickets. To register, call 800-795-2262 or visit www.caleadershipacademy.com

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SCMA Alliance sponsors two fundraisers during May


The SCMA Alliance will be busy raising funds for local nonprofits during May.

On May 9, Team Alliance will participate in the annual Human Race, which raised more than $1 million for charity last year. Funds raised by Team Alliance will fund breast cancer awareness, safety for school-aged children, and health promotion programs.

Physicians and staff can support Team Alliance by signing up to participate in the race or helping at the Team Alliance booth. To sign up, contact Ann Hurd at 537-1031 or annhurd08@comcast.net or Kathleen Cortez at 483-4953 or kkcortez@sonic.net.

For the less athletically inclined, the Alliance is also sponsoring their annual Garden Tour in Sonoma on May 15 and 16. Participants can take self-guided tours of five spectacular private gardens, enroll in gardening workshops, and participate in a raffle whose prizes includes dinners at Cyrus or the Farmhouse Inn.

Tickets for the Garden Tour are just $40; an optional lunch at Meritage Restaurant is $22. To purchase tickets, visit www.scmaa.org or call Janet Shane at 578-4537.

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Physicians need to comply with identity theft rules by May 1


Despite objections from organized medicine, the FederalTrade Commission has ruled that physicians who regularly bill their patientsfor services (including copayments and coinsurance) are considered “creditors”and must develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs fortheir practices by May 1. The so-called Red Flag Rules are required for allfinancial institutions and creditors.

CMA has argued that the Red Flag Rules impose an unnecessaryburden on physician practices, which often operate under strained conditions.CMA also notes that HIPAA already imposes strict requirements to safeguardpatient information. Until further notice, however, physicians should begin toplan their Red Flag compliance programs.

CMA will be hosting alive webinar on April 16 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. to help members understand andcomply with the Red Flag Rules. To register, visit www.cmanet.org/calendar.CMA will also be posting a toolkit on www.cmanet.org to help physicians developand implement identity theft detection programs. 

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CMA files class action suit against WellPoint


CMA has joined with other state medical groups and the AMA to file a class action lawsuit against WellPoint. The lawsuit alleges that WellPoint colluded with United Health Group on a price-fixing scheme that relied on an obscure database to set artificially low reimbursement rates for out-of-network care.

“Health insurers are data manipulating to set rates artificially low, forcing patients to pay more than they bargained for when they go to a doctor of their choice,” said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, CMA president.

WellPoint, which operates as Blue Cross in California, is legally bound to pay the “usual and customary rates” (UCR) for care provided to their enrollees by an out-of-network physician. To determine UCR rates, WellPoint uses a database run by Ingenix, a company owned and operated by United Health Group.

A recent investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo concluded that the Ingenix data is intentionally manipulated to allow health plans to shortchange reimbursements on medical bills. WellPoint agreed to pay $10 million to help fund a new database run by an independent nonprofit organization to replace Ingenix. The company also agreed to quit feeding data into Ingenix and use the new system once it is up and running.

The class action suit has been filed because the settlement with Cuomo did not seek redress for patients and doctors. ”CMA,” said Dr. GnanaDev, “will continue fighting to obtain relief for patients and physicians who were harmed by the systemic flaws of the conflict-ridden Ingenix database.” 

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Three health-related propositions on May 19 special election ballot


Election-weary Californians haveyet another set of ballot propositions to wade through, thanks to the state’shistoric budget agreement earlier this year. A special election set for May 19will include six budget measures, three of which are related to health care.

Proposition 1A would direct the state to spend any excess revenueon education, the Budget Stabilization Fund, and paying off debt, in thatorder. Because health care funding is unprotected, the proposal could result infurther cuts to Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.

Proposition 1D would redirect cigarette tax funds from First 5commissions to the state’s general fund. The proposal could hamper local First5 programs for children’s services but might benefit state-level programs.

Proposition 1E would redirect taxes on the wealthy from an accounttargeted for mental health programs to the general fund. As with Proposition1D, the results are likely to be mixed, with some mental health programsbenefitting and others not.

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Dr. Mark Sloan reads from his new book at Copperfield’s on April 3


Dr. Mark Sloan, a pediatrician at Kaiser Santa Rosa, willread from his newly published book, BirthDay, at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village at 7 p.m. onFriday, April 3. The subtitle of the book gives a good idea of its contents: “Apediatrician explores the science, the history, and the wonder of childbirth.”

A longtime member of the SCMA Editorial Board, Dr. Sloan haswritten many articles and editorials for SonomaMedicine, including the editorial for the current issue on children’shealth.

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Drs. Rosa and Bernstein named to new posts at Palm Drive


Drs. Greg Rosa and Allan Bernstein are assuming new dutiesat Palm Drive Hospital. Dr. Rosa, a veteran family physician, is directing thehospital’s new medical center, which will offer primary care to west countyresidents. Dr. Bernstein, former co-chief of neurology at Kaiser Santa Rosa, willdirect a headache clinic for Palm Drive.

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Volunteers needed for Neighbors in Health


Last year, more than 500 children participated in Neighborsin Health, a day-long event that provides medical care, immunizations, wellchecks and dental exams to uninsured and underinsured children. Organizers hopeto serve even more children at this year’s event, scheduled for August 2. Tovolunteer, visit www.unitedwaywinecountry.org/nih.

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Medical debts seminar - May 6


A three-hour seminar,“Collecting Medical Debts and Improving Credit Policies in Tough Times” will beheld in Santa Rosa on May 6. The speaker is Robert Tavelli, president of theCalifornia Association of Collectors. Cost is $79 (group discount available).To register call NCCS, Inc. - 707-528-4006. book


Office equipment for sale


Exam tables, computers,desks, waiting room chairs, chart cabinets, folders, etc. Call Jennifer at707-522-6200. book


Free file cabinets


Two 4-drawer lateral filecabinets available free to good home. 42” wide, 54” high, 20” deep. Call Dr.Don van Giesen at 953-6763. book


How to submit an ad


To submit a classified adfor News Briefs or Sonoma Medicine, contact Nan Perrott atnperrott@rhscommunications.com or 707-525-4226. The cost is one dollar perword. book


March 2009


National physician leader Dr. Palmer to speak in Santa Rosa on March 4


Dr. Elissa J. Palmer, president of the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, will be in Santa Rosa on March 4 to speak on the future of primary care. Her speech begins at 6 p.m. in the Carston Cabaret Room at the Wells Fargo Center.

Dr. Palmer will discuss innovative models of patient-centered primary care and characteristics of successful primary care practices. Her speech, sponsored by the Sonoma Health Access Coalition, is free and open to the public, but reservations are requested. To RSVP, contact Donna Paul at dpaul@rchc.net or 547-7242, ext. 32.

For additional information about Dr. Palmer and the Sonoma Health Access Coalition, visit sohac.blogspot.com.

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SCMA members to receive patient-feedback postcards for Doctors Day


March 30 is National Doctors Day, and SCMA and the SCMA Alliance are marking the occasion by distributing colorful patient-feedback postcards to the offices of SCMA members. Patients can use the postcards to comment on what makes their doctors special. The cards can be left at the doctor’s office or mailed to the SCMA Alliance, which will gather the comments and share them with individual doctors.

Each year, Doctors Day gives patients a chance to show gratitude to their physicians. The first celebration was held in Georgia in 1933, and Congress officially designated March 30 as National Doctors Day in 1990.

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Jerry Brown to speak at CMA Legislative Day on April 14


Attorney General Jerry Brown heads the list of speakers at CMA’s annual Legislative Day in Sacramento on April 14. Hundreds of physicians from across the state are expected to gather in the capital that day to hear Brown and others discuss healthcare policy in a series of morning and luncheon briefings. During the afternoon, SCMA members will be able to meet face-to-face with legislators from Sonoma County.

All SCMA members are encouraged to attend this annual free event. CMA provides all meals and conference materials free of charge. To RSVP, contact Rachel Pandolfi at 525-4375 or rpandolfi@scma.org. SCMA will coordinate carpools.

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Nominations needed for SCMA elections


Nominations for the following SCMA positions are due by March 20:

*     SCMA president-elect

*     Individual SCMA board representatives from Healdsburg (1), Petaluma (1), and Santa Rosa (2)

*     Two CMA delegates

*     Two CMA alternate delegates

All positions require a three-year commitment, beginning July 1. Nominations can be e-mailed to cmelody@scma.org, faxed to 525-4328, or mailed to SCMA, 3033 Cleveland Ave. #104, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. Each nomination should include a brief statement about the nominee's qualifications.

For more details, contact Cynthia Melody at cmelody@scma.org or 525-4359.

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Health Action takes first steps with iWalk program


Hard on the heels of the iPod and the iPhone, the local Health Action council is stepping out with iWalk, a coordinated effort to promote walking in Sonoma County. The council, which includes SCMA members Dr. Mary Maddux-González and Dr. Bo Greaves, will soon launch a media campaign to encourage bipedal locomotion throughout the county.

Among the many aspects of the campaign will be efforts to improve the walkability of communities and support existing walking groups. For more information, visit www.sonomahealthaction.org.

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Redwood Regional to spend $2 million on new equipment and offices


Despite the foundering economy, Redwood Regional Medical Group plans to spend roughly $2 million over the next few months to purchase equipment and renovate its offices. About half the money will go for new equipment, including two digital mammography machines. The remaining funds will be used to remodel RRMG facilities in Santa Rosa and Petaluma.

The plans were announced by interim CEO Wayne Fairchild, who joined RRMG last fall. The privately owned group has 10 campuses throughout the North Bay and several dozen physicians on staff.

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PFMC grant deadline is April 1


Nonprofit health organizations in Sonoma County are encouraged to apply for Community Grants from the Pacific Foundation for Medical Care. The grants, generally in the $10,000 range, are awarded twice a year by the nonprofit foundation to support local projects that enhance health services.

The application deadline for the next round of grants is April 1. For application materials, contact Marilyn Flowers at 800-548-7677, Ext. 120, or mflowers@rhs.org. For more information, visit www.pfmc.org.

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Stimulus plan includes $19 billion for electronic health records


The economic stimulus package recently signed by President Obama provides approximately $19 billion for electronic health records over the next five years, including bonus payments upwards of $40,000 for each Medicare provider who demonstrates “meaningful use” of an EHR system.

Physicians with significant Medi-Cal patient loads (20% or more for pediatricians, 30% or more for other specialties) may be eligible for additional bonuses paid through state Medicaid programs. As eligibility is based on usage, even physicians who already use EHR systems may be eligible. While the bill does include Medicare payment reductions (starting at 1%) for physicians who do not implement EHR systems, these do not take effect until 2015, and there are exceptions for significant hardship cases.

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Medi-Cal giveth and taketh away


California’s recent budget agreement eliminates optional benefits in Medi-Cal for adult dental, acupuncture, audiology, chiropractic, optometry, podiatry, psychology and incontinence treatments. Although there are no reductions for physicians beyond the previously scheduled 1% cut on March 1, reimbursements to public hospitals will be reduced by 10%.

These and other spending cuts may be averted, however, if California takes advantage of the increased federal matching funds available via the federal government’s economic stimulus plan. Under that legislation, a state’s eligibility and renewal procedures for the Medicaid program (Medi-Cal in California) cannot be more limiting than they were on July 1, 2008.

As part of the budget deal enacted last September, California moved from annual to semi-annual reporting for children in Medi-Cal. If that provision is lifted, California will receive $3.7 billion in additional Medi-Cal funds this year, and $11.2 billion total over the next three years.

In Sonoma County, the Partnership Health Plan Managed Medi-Cal implementation is expected to begin on Oct. 1. Details of that plan will be rolled out later this year.

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Pfizer to disclose payments to physicians


Beginning in 2010, Pfizer will disclose on its website all payments to physicians or other prescribers that exceed $500 in a year. A handful of other drugmakers, including Merck and Eli Lilly, have also announced plans to disclose payments to physicians who serve as speakers and consultants for the company.

The drugmakers’ actions come on the heels of proposed federal legislation to require such disclosures. So far, Pfizer is the only drugmaker to include in its disclosures payments to doctors who work on clinical studies and write up reports for medical journals.

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009 would require makers of drugs and medical devices to report annually all payments to doctors over $100 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The bill includes penalties of up to $1 million for knowingly failing to report such information.

The Sunshine Act is consistent with CMA policy, which supports mandatory disclosure of financial relationships between physicians and drug companies, with the exception of pharmaceutical samples for patients and meals in conjunction with educational meetings.

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Joint Commission requires collection of physician performance data


The Joint Commission has begun requiring medical staffs to collect physician-specific performance data on a regular basis, in addition to the every two-year credentialing cycle. The goal for this “ongoing professional practice evaluation” (OPPE) is to ensure that all physicians with medical staff privileges are monitored routinely and regularly—regardless of whether there are specific performance issues—to find problems in a timelier manner and take appropriate steps to improve quality.

The specific data to be collected will be determined by individual medical staffs, but it could include procedures performed and their outcomes, pharmaceutical usage, diagnostic tests ordered, length of stay patterns, and morbidity and mortality data.

More information on the Joint Commission’s OPPE standard is available in CMA ON-CALL Document #1498, “Ongoing Professional Practice Evaluation.” ON-CALL documents are free to members at www.cmanet.org/member. Nonmembers can purchase the documents for $2 per page  at www.cmanet.org/bookstore.

For more details, contact Samantha Pellon at 916-551-2872 or spellon@cmanet.org.

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CME: Sign up now for 2009 CMA Leadership Academy discount


SCMA members who sign up for CMA’s annual Leadership Academy by March 24 will receive a $100 discount on the registration fee. The conference, which offers 17.5 hours of CME, will be held April 24-26 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.

Topics include health system reform in a new era of Washington politics; the “medical home” and other emerging models for delivering quality care; the promises and perils of hospital EHR initiatives; and health disparities.

Attendees can also select from 14 breakout workshops on topics ranging from survival strategies for practicing in a turbulent economy, to mitigating malpractice risk and developing leadership skills.

Early bird registration by March 24 (including the $100 discount) is just $645 for members, $945 for nonmembers, and $245 for allied health professionals. Tuition for practice managers and other non-MD staff is $295 for CAMGMA members and $395 for nonmembers. SCMA members should register by contacting Cynthia Melody at cmelody@scma.org or 525-4359.

For more details, including the conference brochure, visit the Physician Resources page at www.scma.org.

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March CME presentations at SDC: anxiety disorders and kidney disease


The Sonoma Developmental Center will host two CME events in March. Both are scheduled for McDougall Hall from 1 to 2 p.m.

On March 5, Dr. Lorrin Koran will discuss management of anxiety disorders, and on March 12, Dr. Gopa Green will present case studies of chronic kidney disease. For details, call JoAnne Rawles at 938-6419.

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IMQ needs family physicians and internists as paid consultants


The Institute for Medical Quality is seeking board-certified family physicians or internists to serve on judicial review committees for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The review committees hear evidence regarding the quality of care provided by CDCR physicians.

Interested physicians must be available to serve for five consecutive days, once or twice per year. Physicians will be paid on an hourly basis for their time and reimbursed travel expenses.

For more information, visit www.imq.org/imqdoc.cfm/9 or contact Leslie Anne Iacopi at 415-882-5167 or liacopi@imq.org.

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CMA to host webinar on effective physician leaders


CMA is hosting a March 5 evening webinar on success factors for becoming an effective physician leader. The webinar runs from 8 to 8:45 p.m. To register, visit www.cmanet.org/calendar.

Dr. Susan Reynolds, president and CEO of the Institute for Medical Leadership, will discuss the UCLA Physician Leader Success Factor Study. Webinar registrants will receive a leadership assessment to help them understand their own leadership styles and how they can maximize their leadership effectiveness.

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CME: Primary care conference at Yosemite Lodge on April 3 and 4


A postgraduate institute for primary care physicians will be held at Yosemite Lodge on April 3 and 4. Topics include psychiatric challenges, the biology of aging, and cardiovascular diseases. Includes 16 hours of CME credit. To register, contact the Fresno Madera Medical Society at info@fmms.org or 559-224-4224.

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Medical office equipment for sale


Several items, including electric exam tables, scales, copier, exam stools, desk, chairs, etc. Excellent condition. Call Marie Johantgen, 707-799-7457, or e-mail rmrs100@sonic.net.

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