KALAMAZOO — More than 60 care providers with a Southwest Michigan medical group plan to switch from Ascension Borgess and instead affiliate with Bronson Healthcare next year.
The five-year provider service agreement between Portage Physicians P.C. and Bronson takes effect July 1, 2020. The 30 doctors and 32 physician assistants and nurse practitioners who now practice at six Ascension Borgess ProMed offices in the Kalamazoo area will relocate and staff new Bronson offices.
“Our physicians and APPs (advanced practice practitioners) are committed to putting patients and families first and to serving our local communities. We know that Bronson shares this commitment and that Bronson is actively investing in what the people of Southwest Michigan need,” said Dr. Constance Mumford, president of Portage Physicians. “By aligning our group with the Bronson Healthcare system, we believe we will be able to achieve our clinical goals and serve patients even better in the future.”
The agreement allows Bronson to forge a “closer partnership” with Portage Physicians for care and sharing best practices and clinical protocols, said Dr. Robert Isacksen, a urologist and president of the health system’s medical group. Bronson will provide the group support, clerical staff and practice locations.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to partner with a group that has a very long track record of providing high quality care in our community,” Isacksen said. “It gives us a new partner that we can collaborate with in terms of improving care for our community (and) identifying areas where we have mutual opportunity to improve on our health outcomes. When you have groups of physicians that are collectively focused on opportunities for improving outcomes, it can be really powerful.”
For more than two years, care providers at Portage Physicians have weighed their next move once leases for offices in Portage, Galesburg, Mattawan, Richland and Three Rivers expire on June 30, 2020. Some of the offices are owned by Ascension Borgess and others are spaces leased from property management companies.
The independent Portage Physicians, which consists of family medicine and pediatric care providers, “explored every possibility,” including talking to many health systems around Michigan, renewing with Borgess and going back to private practice, said Greg Schultz, administrator for Portage Physicians.
The group ultimately decided to go with Bronson for its “reputation for excellent patient care and patient service, and their investments in our community,” Schultz said.
“They’re expanding and they’re employing our friends and our neighbors and patients, and it’s good to be part of that momentum,” he said. “It was not about finding somebody new, but making sure the next contract really matched up well with our priorities.”
Bronson’s local ownership and decision-making “certainly was part of the decision process, but wasn’t the driver,” Schultz said.
Ascension Borgess is owned by Edmundson, Mo.-based Ascension, the largest Catholic health system in the U.S. consisting of 151 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
Portage Physicians and Bronson will continue to operate separately until July 1, 2020. Bronson expects to decide early next year on new office locations for the medical group.
The new Bronson offices will be placed close to existing locations “as available real estate will allow,” Schultz said.
“Clearly, we’re going to want to be where our patients can find us,” he said. “We’re already starting site selections to make those determinations and make sure we not only consider what the needs of our patients are today but what the needs will be tomorrow and where the growth is happening in our communities so we can plan some flexibility for down the road.”
The new agreement does not address patient referrals to specialists or referrals for medical tests or procedures.
Referral decisions will remain driven by patient preference, Isacksen said.
“Our intention is patients will continue to be cared for where they want to be cared for and … together with their primary care doctor, they (will) decide on the best place to go,” he said.
Schultz notes that lacking any patient preference, “providers will make the decision that they feel is best for the patient, and certainly our familiarity with the Bronson specialists will be a driver of that decision.”
In a statement to MiBiz, Borgess Ascension acknowledged that Portage Physicians opted to not renew its contract and that it “looks forward to continuing to serve all patients at our Ascension Medical Group ProMed Family practice sites.”