How it works
If you are considering offering shared medical appointments, the first thing to take into account is whether you will be comfortable heading a class. Dr. Chan, admits he is an introvert, said it is not for everyone.
“If you don’t work well in groups, there is no way you could do this,” he said. “You have to be able to facilitate conversation and get people to open up a bit.”
If you are willing to lead a group, Dr. Terlecki said, the topic needs to be on conditions that you have a good handle on. You have to be able to give a comprehensive overview and be ready to answer any questions patients might have.
Conditions that work well for shared appointments are those that follow a protocol and require regular follow up, Dr. Chan said. He provides visits for late-stage kidney disease patients, a group he sees regularly. The classes allow him to cover topics such as anemia, cardiovascular risks, and dialysis all in one visit. For kidney stones, classes works well with newer patients, all of whom need advice on diet, urine measurements, and recurrence rates.
When you start booking the appointments, Dr. Terlecki said, it is good to start small until you get used to running the visits. An ideal group can run anywhere from about eight to 12 individuals. You have to work with patients who think they would be comfortable in a group setting.
Finally, Dr. Terlecki said you have to schedule the appointments regularly to make them successful. Plan one half day a week to start with and expand the offerings based on demand.
Time and reimbursement
Shared medical appointments are not only good for patients, but they can be profitable for your office as well. For instance, Dr. Terlecki said new-patient visits are scheduled for 30 minutes. In an hour and a half, he can see three people in traditional appointments; he can see 10 in the same amount of time at a shared visit. Dr. Chan said he sees about six to eight patients in a half day in the clinic, but 12 to 14 in a half day allotted to a shared appointment. Billing is the same as it would be for a typical physical exam.
All three physicians say shared appointments cut down on wait times for patients, increase income for the providers and improve patient satisfaction. They are all planning to expand the conditions for which they offer group visits.
“In an era of healthcare reform where are told to provide patient-valued care—the best quality of care with the least amount of cost—I feel this is the ideal way to do that,” Dr. Chan said. “You can provide the educational benefit to lots of people at one time.”