Posted by: AtlasMD

December 16, 2013

The Doctor Will See You All Now

We thought Time was kidding when they wrote about something called “shared medical appointments, or group visits.” But no, evidently this group therapy approach to medical care is gaining popularity. Could it be a more satisfying way to see your doctor? It’s too early to tell, but either way, we’re excited here at Atlas MD. Security issues aside, we’re behind any movement that puts the patients in the driver seat. As is the case here when we Tweet with clients, the patients have to provide authorization and be comfortable talking about themselves in front of other people.

You might be thinking, this is ludicrous. But when it comes to diabetics, it makes perfect sense. Taking care of that condition is a full-time job, and as much as family, friends, and even docs, can empathize, there’s no replacement for people who’ve gone through the same ordeal you have.

“As soon as I mention shared medical appointments, everybody automatically pictures a room full of people in their underwear,” says Dr. Richard Kratche, a family physician at Cleveland Clinic. He conducts group visits for physicals. But rest assured, he says, these shared medical appointments don’t literally involve having an audience during a physical exam.

According to Time, since 2005, the percentage of practices offering group visits has doubled, from 6% to 13% in 2010. Oh, and then there’s Obamacare, the ultimate wrench in all things medical-related. Yep, it will factor in to this issue as well. With major provisions of the Affordable Care Act due to be implemented by next year (and prices rising), such group visits will become more attractive to cost savers. Oh and patients who learn more about disease prevention can avoid more serious diseases and expensive treatments down the road. Nice!

“It’s a different way of speaking about health that is more about friends around a circle learning together than talking with an authority figure in a white coat,” says Dr. Jeff Cain, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in describing shared medical appointments. Picture them as a blend between group therapy and support groups, he says. The net outcome is the same — building a sense of comfort, support and even motivation.

That’s what has kept George Heatherly, a retired school teacher, going back to his group visits at the Cleveland Clinic for diabetes management for nine years.

“I was a little apprehensive at first; it was a little scary, and made me a little uneasy since I wasn’t sure how intrusive the whole process would feel,” he says. “But what I found once the appointment started was a bunch of diabetes patients sitting in a room with a doctor, a nurse educator and a couple of physician assistants. Some people would have great numbers that day, and some don’t but it’s not about ‘you ought to do this’ or ‘what’s wrong with you.’ We are all diabetes patients, and we’ve all had our ups and downs in the process of dealing with this illness.”


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