Group Medical Visits – a Novel Model of Care in the Family Physician’s Office?
DOI: 10.3238/zfa.2014.0020-0025german translation / full article
Background: Family physicians in Germany are faced with an ever increasing number of patients with chronic diseases. Consequently, the qualitative and quantitative challenges to meet the patients´ needs are growing constantly. At the same time, the number of family physicians is decreasing in many rural areas. Thus, there is the necessity to search for new approaches in family care. During the 1990s, several models were developed in the USA to treat somatic patients in groups. Today group medical visits (GV) are well-established models of care in family medicine in North America; physicians in several European countries have also gained first experience with this novel concept of primary care delivery.
Methods: This systematic review contrasts the three most commonly used group visit models, and describes their effects in primary care delivery.
Results: All three models have demonstrated an increase in patient as well as physician satisfaction and fostered quality as well as efficiency gains in primary care delivery. Significant improvements in medical outcomes have particularly been shown in the treatment of chronically ill patients. These improvements are, for the most part, attributed to social and group-psychological effects among the participating patients. These are unique to the group setting and impossible to be realized in one-on-one visits. Patients motivate one another to better cope with disease specific impediments and to follow treatment regimes.
Conclusion: In North America group medical visits are a well-established alternative to conventional one-on-one visits – especially in the treatment of patients with chronic diseases. To what extent GV are suitable in Germany is currently trialed in a pilot study.