Would You Be Willing to Share Your Doctor Appointment with Strangers?

There is a shortage of doctors and an overwhelming number of sick people in California. One solution is shared medical appointments, in which 10 or 15 patients are seen together by a doctor in a group setting. Proponents of the strategy say that while an individual appointment lasts 15 to 30 minutes, 90-minute shared appointments allow patients to spend more time with healthcare providers. Some of the Bay Area's biggest names in philanthropy are buying into the plan, namely the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. (Read Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation: Bay Area Grants).

The Moore Foundation sponsored and teamed up a with Essential Anthropology, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, the University of California San Francisco, and the University of California Los Angeles to co-author a study on the issue."Shared medical appointments (SMAs) are an innovative way of speaking to a physician about health," says Editor-in-Chief David B. Nash, MD. "SMAs are especially valuable to people dealing with chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension."

Patient care is one of the foundation's primary funding areas, but this is one of the more controversial projects its funded in awhile. Although much of the media coverage about shared medical appointments has been positive, the people of California are skeptical and implementation by physicians has been sparse. Physicians in Moore's study worried that they'd lose patients, only to“feel like a talk show host.” We grow up believing that our health is a private matter and that our beliefs are backed up by HIPAA laws. But given the current state of healthcare in America, we're slowly losing our privilege of being picky.

The Moore Foundation's study was called, “Overcoming Challenges to Adoption of Shared Medical Appointments,” and an undisclosed multi-specialty group practice in Northern California was chosen as the test subject. Everything from newborn baby well checks to bariatric therapy, diabetes management, dermatology, and psychiatry were tested in group settings.

The results? Moore and its affiliates concluded that he barriers to SMAs could easily be broken down for the sake of increased patient satisfaction and staff efficiency. So going forward, you'd better bet that Moore will be pouring more grant money into SMA transitional training and ongoing SMA program support. Let this post serve as a warning to introverts and secretive people in the Bay Area. Start shaking your social anxiety now, before you get sick, to get yourself ready to sit in a circle and share your symptoms and feelings with strangers.