When a practitioner treats or sees multiple patients at once with the same illness or condition during one appointment, this is known as a group medical visit — or simply put — a group visit. In recent years, group visits in the health sector have grown in popularity for many reasons beyond saving a busy practitioner time. Group consultations are part of a trending movement within modern healthcare, known as participatory care.

What is participatory care?

Participatory care, or participatory medicine, is a medical philosophy in which patients are shifting away from being mere passengers of their health journey and moving towards creating partnerships with their practitioners. In participatory care, practitioners and healthcare providers are their patients’ partners in health. (1)(2)

close up of person's arm with apple watch on it showing health app

More and more, patients are taking ownership of their health journeys, forcing the health industry to transform.

What is causing this shift towards participatory medicine?

These days, the healthcare sector is facing profound pressures for change. Influences include the rising cost of healthcare, growing consumer expectations, new technologies, and increasing globalization — just to name a few.

The shift towards this philosophy of health has several elements at play, with the most powerful being individual interest and agency over health. (3)(4)

Why are group medical visits growing in popularity?

More and more, with patients invested in their health, they are bypassing the conventional and are seeking out integrative health services in a variety of different, more innovative ways.

Group style consultations are becoming more popular because they align with these emerging trends and driving elements. Group consultations increase both patient and physician satisfaction. They deliver integrated care that enhances quality, improves overall access, and helps leverage a physician’s time and productivity. (5)(6)

Did you know?
According to the CDC, six out of ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease — and four in ten live with two or more. (7)

What are the benefits of group visits for practitioners?

When it comes to the specific benefits of shared consultations for healthcare providers, there are several key advantages to the group approach —

Group visits save time

A practitioner who might be able to see five to six patients on a one-on-one basis over a 90-minute time frame can easily see twice that many in the same given time frame by running a group appointment. (8)

Shared consultations are cost-effective

Group medical visits for nurses or practitioners are a great way to save money if you are running a practice on a lean budget.

Practitioners can treat patients more efficiently

Shared medical appointments offer practitioners a much more streamlined way of keeping track of different patients’ medical progress. By seeing more patients in a given day, you can make greater progress with treating your patients. (9)

Group visits reduce the risk of professional burnout

With shared medical visits saving time and energy for practitioners, you are less likely to suffer from professional burnout. (10)

There’s more job satisfaction

Most practitioners do what they do because they love helping their patients on their health journeys. And according to research, job satisfaction from healthcare providers comes from increasing engagement with their patients. (11)(12)

practitioner helping a family of three

Seeing multiple patients at once is one-way practitioners can keep up with the increasing demand for healthcare and, at the same time, provide more agency to their patients. (13)

What are the benefits of group consultations for patients?

Shared medical consultations don’t just help lighten the workload for busy practitioners. There is strong evidence that group visits have huge perks for patients too.

The benefits of group medical visits for patients include:

Improved health & overall wellness

Studies have shown that diabetic patients have reduced glycated hemoglobin levels after attending regular group medical visits. (14)

A stronger sense of community and confidence

Patients with chronic illnesses may also experience feelings of isolation. Group visits are a cost-effective and straightforward way to empower your patients and help them relate and feel a connection to others with similar experiences.

Support from other patients

Studies have shown that patients in group consultations support each other’s care. Patients challenge and advocate for each other in ways that shift patient-provider relationships. (15)

Better adherence to at-home treatment plans

Studies have shown peer support makes individuals more likely to adhere to at-home treatment plans. (16)

Fewer visits to the emergency rooms

Among elderly patients who are chronically ill, those who partake in group visits have been shown to have fewer trips to the emergency room and repeat hospital stays than those who did not. (17)

A reduced cost of care

Group visits can also reduce the cost of care for patients. Patients often pay less for a group consultation compared to a regular one-on-one appointment. Plus, as we mentioned, they are less likely to end up needing expensive emergency room visits. (18)

Did you know?
Group visits are especially beneficial for diabetes patients and other individuals suffering from chronic conditions or illness. (19)(20)

practitioner with a group of people, talking in a small circle

With group visits, there’s usually no waiting. Patients get direct answers to questions they may have not even thought to ask, along with peer support from others who often have similar health problems.

What do group visits entail?

Generally, group consultations include an individualized medical review as well as additional educational resources, group discussion, and peer support. They are usually 90-minutes in length.

There are three well-established models for group medical visits:

  • The cooperative health care clinic concept (CHCC)
  • Drop-in group medical appointments (DIGMAS)
  • Physicals Shared Medical Appointments (Physicals SMAs)

All three models are widely used by healthcare systems around the world to improve access and provide comprehensive participatory care to patients. (21)

Five tips for putting group visits into practice

How do you convince patients to start coming to group visits? It may feel like a challenge at first to convince your patients or clients to sign up for shared appointments or consultations when they’ve only known one-on-one treatment.

It’s essential to make group visits feel additive to a patient’s current health journey and treatment plan – not a replacement that takes up less time. The following elements are key to keep in mind when you are looking to include group appointments in your practice: (22)

1. Invite patients to group consultations personally

When it comes to setting up group visits, be sure to invite patients personally. It’s essential that your patient or clients feel as though their group visits are complementary to, rather than a replacement, for individualized care and one-on-one appointments. Consider extending a personal invitation to patients via email, phone call, or in person during an individual appointment.

2. Grow your group visits with social media platforms & newsletters

In addition to reaching out to patients personally, it’s beneficial to share emails with your patient base as well as promote group consultations on your social media platforms. Let patients know about the upcoming group consultations or specific educational workshops you may be holding – and give them an easy way to sign up!

3. Emphasize to patients that they have more access to your time

With group visits, patients can spend more, not less time with you as their practitioner. Group visits provide the opportunity to delve into more in-depth topics with your patients.

4. Assure patients their privacy is still a priority

Be sure to ease your patients’ privacy concerns by letting them know medical examinations and testing are still all performed privately. It remains their choice to share personal information during group consultation discussions.

5. Have patients sign a confidentiality commitment

It can be helpful to have all your patients who participate in group sessions to sign a confidentiality commitment to ensure privacy.

The bottom line

Facilitating group visits is a pragmatic way to provide integrative health care. Group consultations also offer practitioners the opportunity to bring in other alternative and supporting health specialists, further supporting patient education and wellness.

group of people holding food and talking about it

So for example, if you are a practitioner who is speaking a lot about nutrition, you can bring in qualified nutritionists to some of your group consultations.

Running group visits in your practice will not only give your patients more agency in navigating their health journeys, but it can also help you truly harness the power of the community in your practice.

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  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3987994/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4419925/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6119794/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4957852/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4729281/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6500445/
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm
  8. https://books.google.dk/books?id=PE2pHA-5av0C&pg=PA456&lpg=PA456&dq=group+visits+90+minutes+more+time+with+patients&source=bl&ots=H8Ww4iOwo2&sig=ACfU3U3-1DVLu3u7lf12dEgbwAXsOUVhSA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwivr6-WgIPnAhXBrFkKHbpWAXAQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=group%20visits%2090%20minutes%20more%20time%20with%20patients&f=false
  9. https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2006/0100/p37.html
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6682395/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23348093
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6125073/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496869/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778483/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29781398
  16. https://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4883e/8.6.3.html
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9158573
  18. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/heq.2018.0081
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778483/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679867/
  21. http://www.hqontario.ca/Portals/0/documents/qi/learningcommunity/roadmap%20resources/advanced%20access%20and%20efficiency/step%205/pc-nha-group-medical-appointments-manual-en.pdf
  22. https://www.umassmed.edu/globalassets/diabetes-division–department-of-medicine/resources/groupvisits101.pdf