By Douglas Shepherd
Shared medical appointments could reduce costs for private care and be the key to solving global healthcare shortages, according to researchers.
New research from the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) Berlin found shared medical appointments improve patient satisfaction, learning and medication compliance without compromising follow-up rates or clinical outcomes.
Researchers wanted to understand the impact of shared medical appointments (SMAs) on patient experience – knowledge gained and satisfaction – and on behaviour such as follow-up rates and medication compliance rates.
In SMAs, patients with the same medical condition meet with the physician in a group, with each patient receiving attention in turn.
The physician shares information customised to a patient’s specific needs as well as standardised information relevant to other patients with the same condition.
SMAs have been touted as a potentially effective way to meet healthcare demand worldwide, especially in countries facing significant strain on their healthcare systems.
But the limited adoption of SMAs in the healthcare sector has been attributed to patient concerns about loss of privacy, which may impede open discussion of sensitive medical issues and dampen learning, satisfaction, and engagement.
ESMT Berlin researchers conducted a randomised controlled trial at the Aravind Eye Hospital, India.
One thousand patients with primary glaucoma were randomly assigned to either attend one-on-one appointments or SMAs with five total patients in four successive routine follow-up visits scheduled four months apart.
After each appointment, patients were surveyed to assess their satisfaction with the appointment, their knowledge about glaucoma and their intention to return for a follow-up appointment. Patients were also tracked for their medication compliance rates.
Researcher Nazlı Sönmez, from ESMT Berlin, said: ‘The demand for healthcare worldwide is soaring and exceeds supply. In underdeveloped countries, especially, the patient-to-doctor ratio is staggering and patients face high barriers to receiving care.
‘We must use innovative solutions, like shared medical appointments, to meet this demand. Failure to do so would deprive a huge number of people of their fundamental human right to healthcare access.’
According to the researchers, SMAs could expand access to public healthcare, lower costs for
private care and significantly improve medical outcomes for various conditions, particularly for Type 2 diabetes, in both primary and secondary care settings.
They report that the innovative utilisation of SMAs could ensure more patients receive access to healthcare faster, facilitating healthcare for all.
This research was published in PLOS Global Public Health. The full research paper is at https://journals.plos.org/globalpublichealth/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgph.0001648.