• A group approach to patient care

    January 14, 2017


    It's often said that there's strength in numbers. And that notion may well apply to an alternate approach to the regular doctor's visit—one known as a shared medical appointment or group visit.

    During group visits, several people with a similar illness share a doctor's appointment. Many group visits are designed for people with a chronic condition, such as diabetes. Part support group, part motivational meeting and part traditional doctor's appointment, this format empowers many participants to better manage their health.

    What to expect

    The decision to take part in a group visit is entirely voluntary—patients don't have to participate if they don't want to.

    Group visits may be held on a set schedule, such as once a month. Sometimes, they take the place of regular medical visits. At other medical practices, they merely supplement them.

    And while the details can vary from practice to practice, visits often include:

    Group education. For part of the appointment, participants receive advice from the doctor as a group. This might include helping patients create action plans for reaching goals. Other experts, such as a dietitian or nurse, may give health education tips as well.

    Group interaction. Participants can share experiences, advice and questions. They might offer tips for overcoming challenges and encourage one another to make positive lifestyle changes.

    Individual medical evaluations. Typically, people meet one-on-one with a provider before or after the group session.

    Better together?

    Many people say they're happier with group visits. And they often gain skills and confidence to better manage a health condition. What's more, some studies suggest this approach may even help improve patient care and some medical outcomes.

    Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American College of Physicians