Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit in on a doctors appointment with a patient with a similar illness to yours? Wouldn’t it be interesting to listen in to see how they approach discussions with their (your) doctor, whether they’ve got the same concerns and side effects as you’re experiencing?
Can you actually imagine it happening though? Sharing your appointment with another patient may seem unlikely in todays health care environment where the assumption always has been that patient privacy is sacrosanct. But this commonly held assumption may be wrong…
In this months’ Harvard Business Review a novel approach to appointment scheduling which allows appointment sharing between patients. Not just one other patient – up to 11 other patients to share a single appointment. Patient satisfaction with the system is about 98%. So how does it work?
Dr. Amy Tucker is a cardiologist at the University of Virginia Health System where they have originated the concept (known as Club Red). At the clinic, patients are given a choice between a one on one appointment with their specialist, and a 90 minute shared appointment where they are seen by their doctor in a group. The patients don’t sit in a waiting room either. They all gather in a meeting room where they will complete some paperwork, have a few basic measurements taken and chat informally with other patients. The doctor then goes through the patients one at a time, addressing their concerns, orders tests, discusses progress and sets further treatment plans for each patient. Any physical examinations are done privately by the doctor outside the group.
These discussions all take place openly within the group. Although the consultation is private within the group (patients sign a confidentiality agreement), it is not private in the traditional sense.
According to the clinics’ website, many patients think of the shared appointment as a seminar or class because of the wealth of information they obtain and the length of time spent at an appointment. The patient advantages of a shared medical appointment are that patients get to spend more time with their physician, no waiting room time, faster access to their doctor, and having the help and support of other patients who have similar health issues. They also leave with more information and answers to questions they never even though to ask themselves.
The advantages to the doctors are clear; In 90 minutes, they can see 10-12 patients rather than the usual 3 to 5, providing obvious efficiencies in terms of physician time. Whereas one might assume that the process lessened the patient connection with their clinician, the article suggests that ‘counterintuitively, Club Red members develop a stronger connection with the doctor, largely because they observe his or her expertise and empathy in dealing with patients’. Although I’d like to see some published information on this process, it does seem to challenge a number of commonly held assumptions – something we need to do more of in healthcare.
Whereas I’m unsure as the applicability of this process to my own specialty, I’d love to know what patients (and colleagues think). How would you feel about sharing your clinic appointment with a group of other patients with a similar disease? Would you feel comfortable talking about your own health care problems with other patients present?
Here’s Sharon Jones and Marcia Johnson, two shared appointment participants describing who it all works….