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Group Appointments Increasing

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Recently, doctors have begun group appointments when they see up to a dozen patients with similar medical concerns all at once. Reasons for this trend include allowing more patients to be seen by a doctor each day, allowing doctors to spend more time with patients even if not on an individual basis, easier scheduling availability and improved health outcomes. Some people see group appointments as a way to ease the developing physician shortages. At least 8,000 more physicians are needed to accomodate the more than 27 million people newly insured under the Affordable Care Act. There aren't enough physicians to handle this increase.

A typical group appointment lasts about 2 hours, during which time doctors are asking questions and examining patients. The most situations where group appointments may show benefits are for patients with the same chronic illness, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease. Nurse practitioners can assist during these meetings. Currently, insurance covers a group appointment just as an individual appointment without any change in co-pay. Insurers are more concerned with the level of care provided rather than the number of people in the room. While some are comfortable with group meetings, some doctors and some patients are uncomfortable with this approach.

Whether these group appointments are caused by increased economic and time pressures on physicians, or whether they do act to improve care through interaction and discussion, Britcher Leone & Roth recognize that individualized care may suffer. Patients may be reluctant to discuss important sensitive information during a group visit and physicians may forget to deal with each patient's individual circumstances that could lead to injury from medical malpractice.

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