Group Appointments – Yay or Nay…Do We Have a Choice?

A shortage of physicians is forecasted as Obamacare becomes a reality, and group appointments Is one solution to help the remaining over-burdened doctors see and help more patients.  After reading the following article, I’d be interested to see comments about you feel about sharing your time with a myriad of strangers who might share your same issues.  Personally, my time with the doctor is something I would prefer to remain one-on-one, and confidential.  I don’t think I would feel as comfortable sharing personal issues and symptoms with people I don’t know.  If I wanted to be part of a group, I would join one.  How about you?

Group Appointments With Doctors: When Three Isn’t A Crowd

More doctors are holding appointments with multiple patients, a trend some say may help ease a forecasted shortage of physicians.

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

Excerpted from EVERYDAY HEALTH:

— When visiting the doctor, there may be strength in numbers.

In recent years, a growing number of doctors have begun holding group appointments — seeing up to a dozen patients with similar medical concerns all at once. Advocates of the approach say such visits allow doctors to treat more patients, spend more time with them (even if not one-on-one), increase appointment availability and improve health outcomes.

Some see group appointments as a way to ease looming physician shortages. According to a study published in December, meeting the country’s health-care needs will require nearly 52,000 additional primary-care physicians by 2025. More than 8,000 of that total will be needed for the more than 27 million people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.

“With Obamacare, we’re going to get a lot of previously uninsured people coming into the system, and the question will be ‘How are we going to service these people well?’ ” says Edward Noffsinger, who has developed group-visit models and consults with providers on their implementation. With that approach, “doctors can be more efficient and patients can have more time with their doctors.”

Some of the most successful shared appointments bring together patients with the same chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease. For example, in a diabetes group visit, a doctor might ask everyone to remove their shoes so he can examine their feet for sores or signs of infection, among other things. A typical session lasts up to two hours. In addition to answering questions and examining patients, the doctor often leads a discussion, often assisted by a nurse.

Insurance typically covers a group appointment just as it would an individual appointment; there is no change in the co-pay amount. Insurers generally focus on the level of care provided rather than where it’s provided or how many people are in the room, Noffsinger says.

Some patients say there are advantages to the group setting. “Patients like the diversity of issues discussed,” Noffsinger says. “And they like getting 2 hours with their doctor.”

Patients sign an agreement promising not to disclose what they discuss at the meeting. Although some patients are initially hesitant about the approach, doctors say their shyness generally evaporates quickly.

“We tell people, ‘You don’t have to say anything,’ ” says Edward Shahady, medical director of the Diabetes Master Clinician Program at the Florida Academy of Family Physicians Foundation in Jacksonville. Shahady trains medical residents and physicians to conduct group visits with diabetes patients. “But give them 10 minutes, and they’re talking about their sex lives.”

Though group appointments may allow doctors to increase the number of patients they see and thereby boost their income, many doctors are uncomfortable with the concept, experts say, because they’re used to taking a more authoritative approach with patients rather than facilitating a discussion with them.

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About mizging

I'm a multi-published author, mother of two grown sons and companion and caretaker to a ten-year-old special needs grandson, Spencer. Besides him, writing is my passion and every release has been a special reason to celebrate, but first and foremost, I'm an American, concerned with the direction our country is taking. My opinions are my own and I'm not asking for agreement, simply that people consider the facts presented by me and my web mates.

4 thoughts on “Group Appointments – Yay or Nay…Do We Have a Choice?

  1. There are some appointments that this would be okay, but there are others that I want to be one-on-one with a doctor I trust. Actually I see a nurse practitioner and she’s great.

    I used to manage a doctor’s office and we split the day up so that half the day was for individual appointments and the other half was for “cluster” appointments. Each patient had 5-10 minutes with the doctor and then they were all in a big room for therapy and of course there were usually discussions. And if more time or focus was needed – we scheduled a one-on-one appointment. So it can work, but from my experience it really depends on the competence of the person scheduling the appointments and the doctor and staff understanding how to juggle multiple people at once and still give them the appropriate attention.

  2. usawoman says:

    I see several problems with group appointments. First, in a group setting, there is always at least one person who will use all of the time talking about themselves, or asking questions that the person in charge (doctor, in this case) has already answered. Second, who wants to be at the doctor’s office for two hours? And thirdly, it depends on how comfortable an individual is with talking about their condition in front of others. Some people will be totally left out unless the doctor is good at running group meetings. I can’t imagine that many of them are. Personally, I don’t like this concept. I like my own time with my doctor.

    Good article. I had not heard about group appointments prior to reading this.

  3. Like I said above – I think very few people are qualified to use group appointment structures and its certainly not right for all patients. We used it more for people who had a lot of appointments – people who only had sporatic appointments had their own time slot. Definitely NOT right for all patients and all appointments, but like many other things in the evolving or should I say devolving health care system in the US – quality patient care is not a focus with the ACA. Its about quantity or quality and another way to manipulate people.

  4. usawoman says:

    You are so right about that! Unfortunately, I guess we will have to adjust to the new system.

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