The next time you go in for a medical checkup, don’t be surprised if the receptionist says: “The doctor will see ALL of you now” - meaning, you and everyone else in the waiting room. That’s the gist of the latest healthcare trend, known as “shared medical appointments,” where groups of people see doctors at the same time. Today an estimated one-in-eight doctors offer group visits and they’re almost always covered by insurance.
Now before you freak out about getting a physical exam in front of a bunch of strangers, let me be clear: That’s not how shared medical appointments work. Usually what happens is a doctor examines each patient, first, in private - like always. Then you come back for a follow-up - to go over results, get answers to questions and get advice from the doctor as part of a group. And if you’re worried about privacy, all patients must sign waivers promising not to discuss other patients outside the visit.
Experts say the number one benefit of group visits is you get more time with your doctor because instead of the 12 minutes we get in an average one-on-one appointment, group visits can last an hour! That gives you more time to ask questions and get more in-depth information about your condition. And because doctors tend to schedule group visits with patients who have the same health condition – like diabetes, skin cancer, or obesity – they don’t have to repeat the same advice over and over.
And surveys show that most people walk away from group medical appointments saying they feel better informed, and more “in charge” of their health. That may explain why 85-percent of patients who try shared medical appointments say they don’t go back to individual visits.