Would you sacrifice privacy and modesty for improved access to doctors?

In some cases, the answer is yes.

Yesterday’s Boston Globe talks about group visits, otherwise known as shared medical appointments. If patients accept it, it would seem like a win-win situation. Patients receive improved access, and doctors can generate more revenue, as “many insurers generally pay what they would if the doctor were seeing those patients individually.”

That however, is a big if, as the comments in the article contain a healthy dose of skepticism. Here’s a sampling:

This is nothing short of bizarre.”

Talk to my doctor in front of a bunch of strangers? Not in a million years!”

I think this is ridiculous, patients need private time and the undivided attention of their doctors to properly assess their condition.”

Whose needs are being served here? The argument that it benefits patients just does not stand up to scrutiny.”

If there was ever an indication that the US health care system needed an overhaul, this article is it.”

Judging by this reaction, it’s safe to say that group visits will stay a niche phenomenon. Doctors generally receive no training in group therapy, where there are some nuances that may not be immediately apparent. I, for instance, would have no idea how to conduct a group primary care visit.

This is simply a band-aid to the larger problem of poor primary care access and not enough primary care doctors.

Here are some tips on how to conduct a group visit.

topics: group, visits

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  • Supremacy Claus

    I see the potential for enhancing cognitive services by group visits. You have to discuss nutrition and insulin management. The lecture is always the same. Why repeat it separately to 10 patients a week, instead of once to 10 people. If you give it to a group, a patient will take the advice more seriously if another describes the consequences personally experienced when the advice was ignored.

  • Anonymous

    What about HIPAA and patient privacy? I can’t see this ever flying in my lifetime.

    You would have no idea who else might be sitting in that room with you. You could be discussing a certain illness you have that also has a genetic component to it, and create all sorts of problems for yourself and your family.

  • Anonymous

    These might be a good tool for some patients for some problems.

    My mother sits in her internist’s office and compares notes with the other elderly patients about meds, physicians, etc. so certainly group visits could take advantage of this.

    I’d like to use this for some chronic problem care visits to improve the quality of our teaching and to see if it would help with my noncompliant patietns as well.

    However, if these become widespread we can count on CMS to issue a thousand page vague yet detailed set of group visits regulations. These will then be used by CMS and the other payers to reduce or deny payment for these and scare off most of us from trying them at all for fear of drawing more attention from CMS’ bounty hunting auditors.

  • Anonymous

    One would think the individual patient waived any privacy concerns by sitting with a group of other people and discussing health problems.

    Don’t mental health professionals have group therapy sessions?

    Since HIPAA is a fairly idiotic law to start with, I can’t expect any common sense from that law in practice.

  • Anonymous

    I have a chronic disease and I am longing for this kind of interaction to see how the others are coping, and hear their solutions and at the same time hear the physician’s opinion about the items that are discussed. Instant feedback, education, sharing with people that have the same issues… what’s not to like?

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