Shared medical appointments or “group visits” have long been an option for medical practices, but in recent years they’ve been on the rise. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimated that the number of physicians performing group visits rose from 5.7 percent in 2005 to 12.7 percent in 2010.
How does a group visit work? Instead of scheduling individual patients – all dealing with the same medical issue – for one-on-one 15 minute encounters with the MD, a practice books multiple patients to meet with the doctor for a longer period of time. (Depending on the size of the group, the session may be as long as two hours).
Certainly, group appointments work for some specialties better than others. If you serve a large base of chronic-care patients or otherwise have a significant number of patients facing the same medical condition, group visits could be a secret weapon for your productivity and revenue stream.
Time is Money
A doctor's least favorite type of day is the one he spends saying the same thing to ten different patients over the course of his entire schedule. Usually, those encounters are repetitive, involve low-level codes and low reimbursements.
Though a group visit is much longer than an individual encounter, it ultimately saves a physician time in the long run. Seeing ten patients over the course of two hours – all of whom pay their typical co-pay – is more productive than seeing eight patients for 15-minutes each. Reimbursement for a group visit may vary from payer to payer, but by grouping routine visits you free up a physician's time for longer, higher-level encounters with individual patients.
Satisfaction Leads to Revenue
Group visits pose a number of benefits to patients. Not only do they enable them to get more face time with their care provider, but they help them feel a sense of community with other patients experiencing the same problems. Patients in group visits often share personal experiences with and learn from one another, allowing the encounters to function in-part like therapy.
Patients who enjoy the group experience will be more likely to be loyal to your practice over time and to speak positively of you to their friends and colleagues – potentially earning you new patients in the process.
Outcomes Can Improve
When patients are happy with their care, they do more than refer new patients and stay with your practice. They get healthier!
Some studies have found group visits to improve health outcomes. An Italian trial randomly assigned more than 800 Type 2 diabetes patients to either group or individual care, and found that the “group” patients had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI levels after four years than the ones receiving care under the traditional one-to-one model.
As the U.S. healthcare model shifts to place more emphasis on value-based care, group visits could become a highly valuable tool in your arsenal… one with the power to boost your income through better outcomes.
Are you interested in increasing your practice revenue?