Group Appointments

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Sometimes Three Isn’t A Crowd: Group Appointments with Doctors

You’ve heard of group therapy for mental health issues, how about physical conditions?

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

(Courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

(Courtesy: Kaiser Health News)

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

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 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.

“We tell people, ‘You don’t have to say anything,’ But give them 10 minutes, and they’re talking about their sex lives.”

Insurance typically covers a group appointment just as it would an individual appointment — 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, says Edward Noffsinger, who consults about group visits. (His website is even called groupvisits.com.)

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.” Continue reading