From Alice Park:
What about you?
Shared medical appointments, or group visits, are becoming a popular — and possibly more satisfying — way to see the doctor.
“As soon as I mention shared medical appointments, everybody automatically pictures a room full of people in their underwear,” says Dr. Richard Kratche, a family physician at Cleveland Clinic who conducts group visits for physicals. Rest assured, he says, these shared medical appointments don’t literally involve having an audience during a physical exam.
But they do require divulging and discussing private medical information in front of strangers (albeit ones who have signed waivers not to talk about other patients’ medical histories outside of the visit). And while that makes some people understandably uncomfortable, a surprising number of patients are finding these appointments to be rewarding and effective ways of getting more out of doctor’s visits. Since 2005, the percentage of practices offering group visits has doubled, from 6% to 13% in 2010. With major provisions of the Affordable Care Act due to be implemented by next year, such group visits are also becoming attractive cost savers — patients who learn more about ways to prevent more serious disease can avoid expensive treatments.
“It’s a different way of speaking about health that is more about friends around a circle learning together than talking with an authority figure in a white coat,” says Dr. Jeff Cain, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in describing shared medical appointments. Think of them as a blend between group therapy and support groups. The net effect is the same – a sense of comfort, support and even motivation that comes from sharing similar experiences.