With the number of U.S. patients managing chronic disease soaring, the supply of primary care physicians plummeting and heavier accountability on physicians to keep patients healthy, it's paramount that practices find efficient ways to boost patient engagement.
"Many patients open up dramatically more than in one-to-one sessions," Micah Chan, clinical chief of nephrology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a statement. "If one patient starts sharing, another shares, and they realize, 'I am not alone; I've had that, too!'"
Advances in technologies, such as mobile health apps, have shown promise in improving patient health and saving physician time. The idea of shared medical appointments, which have existed for more than a decade, offers similar efficiency and other benefits.
For example, in addition to "transcending the time barrier," shared medical appointments for home-dialysis patients offer a greater opportunity for patients to learn and get support than one-on-one sessions, according to Chan.
It's not essential for group appointments to be physician-led. Depending on the condition being discussed, a suitable leader could be a nutritionist, social worker, pharmacist or specialty nurse.
Indeed, several reports presented at the American College of Clinical Pharmacy's (ACCP) 2012 Virtual Poster Symposium showed that pharmacist-run diabetes-education programs can vastly improve patient self-management, thus reducing patients' risk for serious complications, Pharmacy Practice News reported.
Although individual pharmacist counseling also benefits patients, Brittany Cogdill, a clinical pharmacy specialist in ambulatory care at the Medical University of South Carolina's College of Pharmacy, commented on the unique advantages of the group approach.
"Group members benefit from receiving advice from others with diabetes, particularly when it comes to diet, instead of listening to healthcare professionals tell them what they should do," she said. Cogdill said 85 percent of participants in a group program she and her colleagues implemented preferred this format over an individual approach.