Mass Medicine

Treating Groups of Patients vs. Individuals

(Suitland, MD) Health clinics across the country, from a Mayo Clinic affiliate in Wisconsin to Stanford University School of Medicine in California, have recently introduces programs in which as many as two dozen patients attend one monthly two-hour group session rather than rely on traditional individual appointments. Group treatments are being arranged in a variety of means, e.g., there are specific groups for specific chronic ailments, routine pediatric care, and geriatric complaints. For exams that require disrobing, the patient and the doctor meet privately before or after the group session. The healthcare clinics that are practicing group sessions report that they are completely voluntary and that private appointments are always available. Little evidence exists so far to gauge the impact of group care. However, a two-year study of Kaiser group-visit programs involving 790 patients has provided some support for the approach. The report found that while the number of hospital visits among group- and private- appointment patients was about the same, those participating in groups spent fewer days in the hospital. They also rated their quality of life higher than patients seeing the doctor privately.