Sharing a doctor to increase productivity? Sharing a doctor’s appointment to bond with other patients suffering from the same chronic condition? It is the kind of thing that concierge doctors are concerned over. Imagine paying full price, or your full co-payment, and going to a shared doctor’s appointment with 30 other patients who might be experiencing the same chronic condition that you are. Does this sound like a good idea, or a recipe for disaster?
“Shared medical appointments improve patient access, enhance patient and physician satisfaction, and increase practice productivity, all without adding more hours to a physician’s work week. There is even evidence that they promote better outcomes and lower overall costs of care.” That’s according to ManagedCareMag.com.
Lets add some insight into the previous image; imagine paying full price for a doctor’s visit, visiting with that doctor in a room full of other patients, or ‘observers,’ who are able to ‘sit-in’ on your doctor’s appointment, share ideas, discuss symptoms, and listen to every word that you are telling your doctor. Not much room for privacy, huh?
And when it comes to privacy, there are two different thoughts on the matter. One patient told NBC that his experience with the shared doctor’s appointment was not all it was cracked up to be; “One on one I can talk to the doctor and ask personal things, not that I can’t do that here but I don’t want to take up the time.”
And yet a physician told another media out let the exact opposite; “The biggest surprise was patient confidentiality,” says Rajan Bhandari, MD, chief of neurology at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Theresa Medical Center in San Jose. “They reveal more about themselves than I would ever have known about them otherwise. They seem to really blossom when they’re in a warm, empathic environment where they feel nurtured, supported, and not alone.”
While the money spent is exactly the same, the confidentiality seems to be lacking, and the overall medical treatment might be deficient, physicians say the “real benefit is that instead of pretending that patients who have been living with chronic medical conditions don’t know anything about them, you actually involve them in the care-giving process.”
According to ManagedCareMag.com, a two-year study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed that patients participating in the cooperative-clinic model stayed independent longer and were more satisfied with their physicians and with their understanding of their medical conditions. Physician satisfaction also increased, while hospitalization and ER use decreased by 12 and 18 percent, respectively. Cooperative-clinic participants were 2.5 times as likely to stay with their physician and with Kaiser.
This method of medicine becomes not so much about the chronic condition itself, but about the person living with the chronic condition. This bonding between patients with like conditions and the ability to help one-another out in these shared doctor appointments seems to offer an “installation of hope.” In shared doctor appointments, patients no longer feel like they’re the only ones dealing with the chronic condition. They can see others living with the condition as well, whether in a greater way or a less fortunate way.
Another aspect of shared doctor appointments is the time spent with the doctor, though it might be ‘shared’ time. A general appointment with the family physician will run from between 8 to 10 minutes, while in a shared appointment that time is extended to 90 minutes, a benefit that makes patients feel as if their getting their money’s worth.
While it might be a little different, and may take some getting used to, it is creating a buzz in the medical community and it is getting people excited about more possibilities for healthcare. Shared doctor appointments are bringing more attention to the fact that patients are frustrated with the system, with the way they are treated in their 8 minute doctor appointments, and that they are looking for alternatives to general medicine.