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Three SMA Myths Debunked

Michelle Wilson Berger, May 14, 2012
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Don't be deterred from trying the shared medical appointment model until you have all the facts. Here, three misconceptions are addressed.

Myth 1. All physical exams, even those that require disrobing, happen in the group room.

"Patients aren't nude together, and they're not ushered from station to station en masse," says Edward B. Noffsinger, PhD, author of Running Group Visits in Your Practice, and the model's creator. Rather, physical exams happen in exam rooms. Noffsinger suggests setting aside four for the visit's duration. While the doctor is in with each patient, a behaviorist leads group discussion, passing out reading material, and finding out each patient's concerns.

Myth 2. The physician doesn't see each patient's chart. The doctor looks at every one.

"When the physician is finished working with the patient, he goes over and reviews the real-time chart note being generated by the documenter," Noffsinger says. "As soon as the doctor's done with the chart note, the [group] moves on to the next patient." It's this shared effort that makes the group model so effective, adds Marianne Sumego, MD, a physician at Cleveland Clinic Willoughby Hills Family Health Center who has conducted appointments like these for 10 years. "If your documentation is not primarily done at the end of the visit, the physician is losing the leverage of the resource," she adds. "That's why we have a team."

Myth 3. Not every group session is a shared medical appointment.

"It's not a support group. It's not a 12-step program. It's not a health education class," Noffsinger says. "It's a medical visit sequentially addressing each person's unique medical needs individually in a group setting where others can listen, learn, and understand."