Group Visits with the MD

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.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Phil Miller

    Having a hard time imagining how this would work, myself, but if it gets people to see their doctors more regularly, I’m all for it.

  • Susan_G1

    This is a bit different, but I can see the advantages. It’s a very interesting idea.

    People going to the doctor remember about half of what he/she said. If they’re anxious, studies show they hear less that 25% of what the doctor said.

    Group visits are a bit intimidating for doctors, because time management control is lost. But it’s really good for patients because collectively they can remember the whole visit.

    I’ve gone to the doctor with a few of my friends as a support person. It was eye-opening, even though I knew the stats. My very anxious friend had a cyst on her ovary. The doctor she saw was gentle, patient and thorough (he later became my doctor). Yet, my friend, as soon as we got to the car, remembered virtually nothing he said. I had to replay the entire visit for her. He didn’t use unfamiliar terms with her, but it was my second language.

    After that, I offered my services in this capacity freely, and appreciated even more the third person in the crowded ER room. I even took up patient advocacy, reviewing medical records, researching, then accompanying, with the families, sicker patients on their visits. Often patients/family forgot to ask about things we had discussed ahead of time. I did it for them, listened to the assessment and plan, sometimes asked for a test or two to be added. Then we’d have a post visit conference where everything was reiterated. It was a blessing for me to help.

    Once a cardiologist seeing my friend in another ER for chest pain wanted to let her go, telling her that she had not had a heart attack. I was adamant with her cardiologist that she stay. Rather than fight with me, he admitted her. It turned out she’d suffered a severe anterior infarct. She was in for a while, was on disability and cardiac rehab. I hate to think what would have happened if she had been discharged back to her usual activity level.

    I wondered about doing this professionally, but malpractice insurers weren’t set up for it then.

    Needless to say, I’m all for it.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X