Shared Appointments Improve Access, Quality

August 1, 2013

by Deborah Borfitz

Deborah BorfitzShared medical appointments have been heralded as a way to ease the primary care shortage, by having doctors see up to two dozen patients at once. As it turns out, these appoint­ments not only can improve access to care, but also can improve care quality – at least for patients with chronic diseases who opt to participate in highly structured follow-up group visits.

So says Zeev Neuwirth, MD, president and chief clinical executive with Charlotte, NC-based Carolinas HealthCare System Medical Group. He estimates that at least 50 physician organizations nationwide have embraced shared medical appointments. The model allows physicians to spend more time with patients than they would at an individual appointment, which is pleasing to both parties. Surprisingly, patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are neither ashamed nor embarrassed to share personal medical information with others in the room. “The bigger problem is patients exposing more than they need to,” Neuwirth says.

During the last two years, Carolinas HealthCare System has developed shared medical appointments for dia­betes,rheumatology, congestive heart failure, pulmo­nary hypertension, general pediatric care, general neurology, and internal medicine. Patients in the latter group have an assortment of chronic conditions rang­ing from high blood pressure to heart problems. The rheumatology group is the most popular because of the enthusiasm of the doctor overseeing it, says Neuwirth.

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