A new strategy for harried physicians: See patients in groups

There's no doubt that the world of medicine is changing, and many physicians, especially primary care physicians, are struggling.  Long hours and not even enough compensation are leading many to consider cutting back on their hours or even retiring.

But at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and a few other offices around the country, physicians are experimenting with a new strategy that could help them reduce the number of hours worked, increase patient satisfaction, and even make reimbursements from insurance companies go a lot further.

The new strategy? Shared medical appointments.  Doctors take approximately ten patients for one ninety-minute appointment. If any patients have similar ailments, the doctor doesn't have to give his explanations more than once, and patients can learn from the other patients' questions.

Harvard Vanguard did a survey, and found that 77 percent of patients said they would go to another group visit after attending a first. Most of the rest said that they might, with only five percent saying that they wanted to go back to an individual appointment.

Obviously privacy concerns have to be dealt with, and shared medical appointments require a different space to work in than traditional appointments with one doctor and one patient in a room. However, when patients are willing to give up a little privacy, they can gain a large amount of time with the doctor--and the doctor gains a lot more time to relax while still seeing his patients.

To learn more about this approach:
- check out this video
- read this Boston Globe piece