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Group Visits for Improving Patient Care

Group Visits for Improving Patient Care

Group visits, in which physicians see multiple patients simultaneously, make up an innovative model for health care and are becoming a popular- and perhaps a more satisfying way of seeing your doctor.

The group visit model, consisting of shared medical appointments, was first introduced in family practice about 30 years ago and evolved in the context of conventional medicine with a primary focus on management of end-stage disease. These medical visits were designed as 90-minute educational appointments for older patients with chronic illnesses, co-led by a physician and behavioral health professional.

The concept of group visits has spread to a number of practices nationwide and is used today by leading medical organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente to improve patient outcomes and quality care. Medicare, and many major insurers now reimburse for group visits, and some actively promote wider adoption of this model. Direct-pay practices are also embracing this model, given the positive experience and outcome it creates for many patients.

Traditional Visits vs. Group Visits

Traditional conventional medicine allows the health care budget to be spent on delivering brief services to individuals with chronic conditions. The focus of this medical care is on management and monitoring of chronic illnesses, but much of the responsibility for change is shifted to the individual rather than the provider. In conventional medicine a patient sees his or her doctor, is given a quick diagnosis and possible momentary counseling that the doctor can accomplish in under 15 minutes, and then left on their own to figure out how to take care and/or how to adapt to whatever challenges the diagnosis presents. This model of care with individualized traditional visits leaves many patients feeling isolated and confused, unable to change and improve their health.

On the other hand, group visits makes patients feel less alone. Individuals are able to learn from each other and there’s a sense of community and support that patients really like. Participants of group visits end up helping each other more than doctors ever could because they can relate to their peers.

Studies show that about 85% of patients who try shared medical appointments don’t go back to individual visits for anything from diabetes care to weight-loss, physical appointments and blood pressure management.

Benefits of Group Visits

Whether patients who participate in group visits are healthier than those who continue with only the traditional individualized doctor’s visits isn’t clear yet – currently there are no national studies that have compared health outcomes on things like blood pressure control, weight management or diabetes complications. However, evidence from a randomized trial of outpatient group visits for chronically ill older HMO members in the Colorado Kaiser program indicates that group visits had the following impacts:

  • 30% decrease in emergency department use
  • 20% decrease in hospital use / re-admissions
  • Delayed entry into nursing facilities
  • Decreased visits to sub-specialists
  • Urgent care visits fell from 0.3 to 0.24 per patient per year
  • Reduction of same day visits to primary care
  • Fewer calls to physicians
  • Increased patient overall satisfaction with care

Cleveland Clinic also supports this evidence by stating that patients who participate in group visits report feeling better informed and more in charge of their health than patients who see their physicians only one-on-one.

Group Visits are a Great Tool for Functional Medicine

The efficiency of group visits is very appealing, and more doctors are appreciating the restructuring that shared appointments can provide. Rather than repeating the same advice over and over many times a day about lowering blood pressure, or keeping glucose levels under control to patients individually, shared appointments allows physicians to see up to fifteen patients with similar symptoms at a time and provide more detailed advice and education. With group visits patients are better able to improve and protect their health and are less likely to develop serious medical conditions that require expensive care later on.

Holistic Healing Heart Center Will Now Offer Group Visits

Dr. Cynthia believes in providing the best quality care to all of her patients. Starting June 9, Dr. Cynthia and her team will visit with you in a group along with 10-15 other patients for about 90 minutes in a conference room here at the office. During the visits there will be time for talking with other patients as well as education about specific health problems. Dr. Cynthia will also go around the group and spend time talking with all patients individually about their health problems and concerns. This idea will now be implemented once a month at the office because Dr. Cynthia feels that the usual 15-20 minute scheduled office visit times just aren’t enough to give the kind of care she wants to provide to you. Of course the visits are completely voluntary and patients can still see her one-on-one.

In lifestyle-based medicine, the limitation is time. With the group visits the focus will be centered on teaching patients about the factors that trigger diseases and promoting behavioral change to improve overall health. We welcome your possible interest in this new opportunity for you and Dr. Cynthia to participate in your healthcare and management.

If you have any questions or are interested in signing up for our next group visits please contact our office at 818-842-1410

About the author

Dr. Cynthia Thaik, M.D., FACC is a Harvard-trained cardiologist serving the greater Los Angeles community at her holistic health center in Burbank and Valencia, CA. Dr. Thaik is the author of Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength, and Spirit from the Body’s Core. To learn more about Dr. Thaik or the Holistic Healing Heart Center, or to schedule an appointment, please contact info@drcynthia.com or call (818) 842-1410.

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