Shared medical appointments show promise in primary care

Thus far, much of the research surrounding shared medical appointments (SMAs) involved specialties dealing with chronic conditions such as diabetes. SMAs may have a promising place in primary care, particularly as part of the patient-centered medical home, according to a new study published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

SMA patients were more satisfied than traditional patients in terms of timely access to care and clinicians' sensitivity to their needs,according to survey responses of more than 900 SMA and traditional care patients at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, a multispecialty group of more than 20 practices in Massachusetts with an established SMA program. However, patients who attended typical one-on-one appointments reported higher satisfaction with their relationship and communication with their physician.

In addition, patients who rated SMAs most favorably were generally white adults who attended two or more SMAs before. , These findings suggest a "warm up" period for patients to grow comfortable with the model, as well as the potential need to better adapt the model to other cultures as it becomes more widespread, according to the authors

Finally, the researchers commented on how SMAs might improve on their biggest shortcoming identified by the study. "A robust patient-clinician relationship is the foundation to effective delivery of primary care, so sustained use of SMAs will depend on clinicians' ability to engage and nurture the patient in the group setting," they wrote.

"To date, medical training programs have structured their patient-doctor curriculum around the traditional patient-doctor encounter; consequently, we expected that new SMA clinicians would have varying degrees of comfort and aptitude toward delivering care in a group setting. Physicians who lead SMAs may benefit from training to develop communication skills tailored to group care."

To learn more:
- read the study