As 30 million newly insured patients under health reform implementation are expected to flood physicians' offices, practices must increase access, efficiency and effectiveness of the care they provide. Pioneered by psychologist Edward Noffsinger in the late 1990s, shared medical appointments continue to offer doctors the ability to see patients on shorter notice, spend more time with them and motivate consumers to engage in their health.
"There's hardly a medical institution that you could mention that hasn't done something with group medical visits," Noffsinger recently told the Charlotte Observer. "The fact that they have prompt access and 90 minutes of care is almost unheard of these days."
Group appointments work for all types of visits, from primary care to surgical consultations, Noffsinger added. A major benefit of shared appointments, typically for about 10 patients suffering from similar conditions, is the ability for patients to provide peer support. Group appointments differ from support groups because each patient has a medical need for which they get direct medical care.
Importantly, research shows that the group format can be effective in multiple age groups, according to an article from Medscape Today. While it was once believed that patients older than 70 needed more individualized attention to benefit from diabetes education, for example, a new study from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston showed that older patients participating in group education did just as well as their younger counterparts in using advice to manage their blood sugar.
For doctors, group appointments are a financial win too, as insurance typically reimburses as though each patient in the room has had a private visit, allowing doctors to see more patients without expanding hours, the Observer noted. At the same time, proponents say the health system saves money overall by getting patients to better manage their conditions.