Last week those winds of change blew through Santa Barbara with the announcement of plans for the 150 physicians of Sansum Clinic to merge with Cottage Health System. Yet independent physicians, the largest contingent of doctors in Santa Barbara, are pledging to hold fast to a model of individualized care, that they describe as a patient choice that must be maintained.

“Our record of providing the highest quality care in a compassionate and personalized manner is the major reason why more community members choose to get their care from independent physicians than any other group in Santa Barbara.” said Brent Kovacs, M.D., independent gastroenterology specialist and a local leader in quality improvement efforts.

Across the country health providers are feeling pressured to align or consolidate. Yet experts point out that the early results of many of these consolidations have been disappointing and local physicians are confident that the public will continue to support an independent physician option. But as health systems merge and realign, the ability to choose one’s own doctor has become a growing concern.

“Independent physicians welcome the efforts of our colleagues at Cottage and Sansum to improve the quality and coordination of the services they offer. But we also want to make sure that patients’ voices are heard as these changes in health care are occurring and that patients still have the ability to choose where they go for their care” commented David Laub, M.D., an independent urologist. Dr. Laub suggests that changes are a call to action to patients and employers: “If patients and employers want to maintain care options in the future, they are going to have to speak up.”

The Santa Barbara Medical Society estimates that there are approximately 1000 practicing physicians in the county. With 150 physicians affiliated with Sansum and roughly equal numbers of physicians working in semi-independent settings such as emergency medicine and anesthesia, this means that the majority of Santa Barbara physicians still work in small group and independent practices. These independent physicians, who practice in hundreds of offices and clinics throughout the region, pride themselves on providing both the highest quality and most personal care to their patients. And they intend to keep at it.

“We want our patients to rest assured that we will continue to be there for them as we always have. Independent physicians are ready to deal with the challenges of health care changes but will not waiver from our core mission of providing the best service and best care to our patients, their families, and our community” said Mike Bordofsky, M.D., President of Santa Barbara Preferred Health Partners, a newly formed affiliation of independent physicians.


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