Updated on January 4, 2014
Shared Office Visits
Recent articles in Time and The Oprah Magazine discuss the intriguing concept of “shared medical appointments”. Here’s how such appointments work. Up to a dozen or more patients assemble for the visit. First, a nurse or physician’s assistant evaluates vital signs such as body weight, blood pressure, and heart rate. Next, if the patient is to be examined (apparently exams are optional in human medicine these days), the nature of the visit dictates whether this happens privately or fully clothed in the group setting. Lastly, a group discussion takes place during which time the doctor addresses each patient (everyone in attendance signs a confidentiality agreement) with time left for discussion and questions.
A report in Clinical Diabetes discusses the benefits derived from shared medical appointments, particularly for management of chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Increased compliance with the physician’s recommendations has been documented. Patients report that they benefit from questions asked by other patients, and that they learn more about disease prevention in the group setting than they would during a one-on-one office visit.
Shared office visits aren’t for everyone, particularly those who tend to be more private by nature and may avoid discussing important health issues in a group setting. According to data collected by the Cleveland Clinic where almost 10,000 group appointments have taken place, 85 percent of people who attend one shared visit sign up for another
Some physicians seem to prefer shared appointments because the process streamlines the way they deliver health care. Rather than providing the same blood pressure or diabetes management spiel multiple times during the course of the day, they can deliver this important information to a dozen or so patients in one fell swoop. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, since 2005 the percentage of family medicine practices within the United States offering shared visits has doubled from 6% to 13%.
Interesting concept, eh? Naturally, when I read these articles I began thinking about how the concept of shared office visits might work in veterinary medicine. In all seriousness, I really do believe shared office visits would be effective, particularly for annual wellness exams. My experience tells me that clients love chatting with one another and “comparing notes”. I’ve witnessed many an impromptu “support group” form in busy veterinary hospital waiting rooms, complete with exchange of telephone numbers and email addresses. And, given the choice, I think most veterinarians would relish the opportunity to give their nutrition/flea control/vaccination/heartworm prevention talk once a day rather than ten or twelve times daily.
Based on the dog park model, it might be wise to separate the big dogs from the small dogs during shared office visits. Folks with the little guys would hear about dental disease and symptoms of heart failure. The big dog people would hear about arthritis management and cancer prevention. How about group visits for kitties? Hmmm, this one makes me a bit nervous. And mixing dogs and cats together would surely be a recipe for disaster!
What are your thoughts about shared medical appointments for yourself or your pets?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.