HEALDSBURG MEDICAL GROUP: Emerges As Area Leader
"Healdsburg Medical Group, Inc., formerly one of the smallest, least influential physicians' groups on the North Coast, has wooed more than 50 new primary care doctors and is about to become the largest of eight groups affiliated with Health Plan of the Redwoods in Sonoma County," the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. As of "March 1, the group will have about 60 primary care physicians practicing throughout the county and" will serve almost 25% of HPR's Sonoma County membership, about 20,000 enrollees. The Press Democrat reports that the "new affiliations are being driven by the 18-month-old restructuring of" Health Plan of the Redwoods (HPR). The restructuring was designed to "deal with back-to-back annual losses totaling more than $17 million" by breaking up the single physicians' group HPR had contracted with, Individual Practice Association of the Redwoods, and "begin contracting with smaller groups tied to specific hospitals."
The Pods Are Coming
HPR, the "county's second largest health plan," began "contracting with small groups of physicians to provide care to" its members as part of the restructuring. The "agreements were designed in conjunction with the hospital nearest the primary physician's practices" in groups called "pods." The pods "were supposed to help the health plan, doctors and hospitals keep costs down by increasing communication and efficiency." However, the Healdsburg and Sonoma County Primary Care physicians in Sebastopol "are not contractually tied to a specific hospital," which gives the participating doctors "more leeway in treating patients." In addition, unlike many of the other groups contracting with HPR, the groups are not owned by national physician practice management firms. As a result, many doctors have been attracted to these groups. "I think one of the big reasons so many physicians looked favorably on this group is because there is a perceived difference in the fundamental nature of these groups," said Healdsburg President Locke Wilson. "Many of the other groups have a much more entrepreneurial basis. They're owned by someone else -- or strongly influenced by someone else -- and doctors feel they have less say in what happens," he said (Lauer, 2/4).