The Doctor Will See You All Now!

Overcrowded waiting room and endless wait times may soon  be a thing of the past. At least for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

According to a  study published in the online issue of Neurology, group appointments may be feasible for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Group visits  allow patients more time with their doctor, provide more opportunity for disease management education and allow patients and their caregivers to share their experiences and learn from one another

The study compared patients who received normal care from their physician with patients who had underwent group visits. The “normal care” group had 30-minute appointments with their physicians every three to six months. Group visits lasted 90 minutes and were held every three months and included introductions, updates from patients, and an educational session on a topic chosen by the participants. Time was allotted for questions from patients or caregivers, and individual 10-minute appointments with the physician were scheduled for before or after the group visit for individual concerns.

Of the 30 study participants, 90% completed the 12 month study, along with 93% of the 27 participating caregivers. At the end of the study, there was no difference between those receiving normal care and those participating in the group visits in how they rated their overall quality of life.

Participants were also asked whether they preferred the group visits or usual care. Of those receiving group visits two thirds said they preferred them. Among the normal care group, opinions were roughly divided.

While both support groups and traditional visits have clear benefits, a survey of people with Parkinson’s showed that they desire more information for them and their caregivers about their disease,” said study author E. Ray Dorsey, MD, MBA, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Group visits can give physicians the opportunity to observe their patients for a longer period of time and appreciate disease characteristics such as fluctuations in their symptoms and daytime sleepiness that may not readily be appreciated during a routine 20- to 30-minute office visit.  However, they may also pose logistical issues, such as scheduling difficulties and the need for a large room. Additionally, there is a potential risk that the lack of a one-on-one examination could lead physicians to miss subtle problems and also some concerns about patient confidentiality.

Perhaps what is needed is a hybrid model – where patients alternate between group and individual appointments.

Have you experienced a group appointment?  Would you be willing to have a group appointment? Please share your thoughts with us.

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