As medical care advances to incorporate cutting edge technology that meets the needs of many more people, some patients may miss the subtleties of more nuanced care.
And as doctors update their practices to meet the demands of health insurance companies it can sometimes feel overwhelming for a patient who wants assurance that their needs matter.
Enter internal medicine doctor Sandy Wilson.
Dr. Wilson recently returned to the Santa Ynez Valley to re-open her practice with what she calls a personalized health care model rather than a production model meant to care for a significant number of patients. The change means that she sees a smaller number of patients, but they get a lot more access to her.
“A retainer practice moves things away from a productivity model because you’re not married to sheer numbers,” Wilson said.
Patients pay an annual retainer to become a patient of Wilson’s. In exchange, they get open access to her, can call or text her on her cell, and can even use her self-scheduling app to make their own appointment. Wilson said she is the only female doctor in the Santa Ynez Valley to use this type of care model.
The model she uses means that she may only take on 200 to 300 patients. Many doctors see an average of 2,000 patients.
Having fewer patients allows Wilson to get to know patients more thoroughly — an intimacy is a benefit to preventative medicine. That's especially true because 90 percent of diseases that kill people are lifestyle related, not genetic, Wilson said.
Often when patients see a doctor for something like a sore throat, they may also want to address health goals like weight loss or lowering cholesterol, but don’t because they don’t have the time. With Wilson they can get access as often, and as conveniently as they’d like.
“So it neutralizes the whole factory medical experience,” she said.
Though she just opened her practice in May, Wilson had a practice in the Santa Ynez Valley from 1998 to 2008. That’s when she left the area to become a hospitalist at a VA hospital. As a hospitalist, she specialized solely in seeing patients who were being treated at the hospital. Because those patients are often sicker, a hospitalist has a specific skill set, she said.
During her time as a hospitalist Wilson also worked as an associate professor at a medical school and as supervisor for a group of hospitalists. She was also the associate program director of that residency program.
Working at a VA clinic and teaching the next generation of hospitalists were both profound for Wilson in many ways. She said she felt like she was making a contribution when she provided care for the veterans she saw because of the special needs many of them were experiencing.
For the resident doctors, she said she feels like she was able to bring the personal care perspective to them in their diagnostic process, keeping them mindful of always thinking about what the patient is telling them. They learned her perspective, but the experience as a teacher was also important to Wilson.
“It went both ways. What I gave, I got back significantly,” she said.
In 2014 she decided to move back near her Santa Barbara family and worked at the VA clinic in Santa Barbara prior to opening her current practice in the Santa Ynez Valley where she works with associate Dr. Lisa Clement.
As part of her practice she will visit her patients at both hospitals in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara. She said many doctors won’t see their hospitalized patients until they are discharged, but she believes it’s beneficial to her patients that she see them.
“When you know someone from outside of the hospital, you can tell if they are getting better or if they seem like themselves,” she said.
The hospital isn’t the only place she’ll visit patients as part of her personalized care model. Wilson said she’s open to the occasional house call. She said she understands that sometimes it’s hard for a patient in need to manage a doctor visit, like a recent visit she made to a senior patient with back pain. The patient was immobilized, Wilson recalled, and so she did what few doctors in this decade do, she made an old-fashioned house call.
Wilson’s experience has gained her recognition in her industry. She is a fellow with the American College of Physicians, and the Society of Hospital Medicine. Becoming a fellow with these organization is much like applying for a job, as it requires career milestones, references, and an application approval process. They are achievements in which Wilson takes pride.
She’s also held the chief of staff positon at Santa Ynez Valley Medical Center, and has been board certified in internal medicine for 20 years.
Prospective patients can call Wilson on her cell at 245-9010, or at her office number, 686-5533.