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Patients Benefit From Group Medical Appointments

Getting in to see a headache specialist can take months and the appointments are never long enough to ask all your questions. Could group medical appointments be a solution that allows patients to spend more time with their doctors as well as learn from other patients? The motivation behind shared medical appointments is to “ease physician shortages, and reduce patient and doctor dissatisfaction over constantly feeling rushed during appointments.” The idea is a little off-putting at first, but patients with a variety of medical conditions — and their doctors — are finding great benefit in such appointments (according to news articles, at least).

A group visit can have as many as a dozen patients and last for as long as two hours. Every patient is asked for his or her concerns and can ask questions and provide input to other patients. The doctor acts as a facilitator and answers questions, often covering more topics than they could in a shorter visit. A physical exam, if necessary, is still done in private. Studies indicate that patients treated in groups actually have better outcomes than those who see their doctors in traditional appointments.

These appointments sound like a hybrid doctor’s visit and support group with the added benefit of a trained medical professional who can correct misunderstandings. Unlike a support group, I doubt there’s much exploration of the emotional burden and quality of life issues associated with illness. It would, however, introduce patients to others with similar struggles in their geographic area, thus possibly promoting support groups that gather spontaneously. It might also bring home to doctors just how much an illness impacts their patients’ lives.

I wonder how it works for patients who are in different stages of their treatment. Would a migraineur who has tried dozens of preventives benefit from being in a group with someone who had only tried two, and vice versa? I’m not ready to give up my one-on-one time with my headache specialist just yet, but the idea of a group visit is fascinating.

Would you attend a group medical appointment, whether for migraine or another illness? If you already have, what did you think and would you do it again?