Shared doctor appointments coming to Boston?

Two of the three parts of Boston Mayor Tom Menino’s push to expand services at the city’s community health centers are laudable. The city’s 26 centers are an excellent resource for residents, hearkening back to the more personal approach to health care I remember growing up with, and his plan to expand “urgent care” services — medical issues that need to be addressed within a 24 hours but not requiring a full, expensive ER visit — is a great one (assuming the city can get the health insurers to pay for it out of the money it’ll save them in ER visits). Also, his plan to help put people in touch with preventative care for chronic disease is certainly the way to go.
But the idea of patients sharing doctor appointments will be a controversial one. To quote myself from the story I just wrote for the West Roxbury Transcript:

“Dr. Zeev Neuwirth, chief of clinical effectiveness and innovation at Atrius Health and Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, said the company has been using shared appointments for about three years in the state. There are 50 shared medical clinics up and running, including in the Boston area, which have served 10,000 patients.”

So they already exist, and Neuwirth says patient satisfaction surveys show patients like them as much as regular doctor visits. Still, the idea of them sounds bad for most kinds of medical issues. As one person said to me in the course of reporting the story, “Would a bunch of men want to sit around with other men and talk about erectile dysfunction?”
This is an issue worth keeping an eye on as the city rolls out its Neighbor Care initiative.

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About Don Seiffert

I'm a reporter and writer in the Boston area.
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