Is a Shared Medical Appointment Right for You?

Group appointments offer unexpected benefits

people in group discussion

Imagine yourself in a room with a dozen other people, all with the same health problem you have.

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For 90 minutes you share stories about your concerns, whether it’s about diabetes, high blood pressure or even general wellness. You talk about the things you’ve done that have made you feel better. Or you hear something from someone else that helps you.

This is a shared medical appointment (SMA). Your doctor or sometimes other healthcare professionals leads the meeting, talking to you and a group of people who know exactly what you’re going through because they’ve been there.

This means more access to more health information with more people. It’s just natural you’ll get smarter about your condition.

Marianne Sumego, MD, Director of Shared Medical Appointments at Cleveland Clinic, says, “You can’t help but walk out of there with more.”

Shared medical appointments cover many health issues

Today, more shared medical appointments are available to patients of all ages, covering a wider range of conditions from diabetes to asthma to weight management and multiple sclerosis. 

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How a group setting helps you

Dr. Sumego says the group dynamic can directly improve people’s health. She runs SMAs for people with asthma.

“Peer interaction can increase compliance by patients learning from each other and using each other for encouragement,” Dr. Sumego says. “Improved compliance translates into improved results. People are happy to share their tidbits and advice.”

Everyday help from people in the same boat

Maybe you have a diet tip for a fellow diabetes patient. Or you can recommend your type of asthma inhaler to someone having trouble with theirs. Or you have a good salt substitute idea for another guy with high blood pressure.

Or you get an unexpected piece of inspiration.

Dr. Sumego talks about a boy casually mentioning at a shared appointment about getting out and playing basketball every day, despite his asthma. A middle-aged woman who was letting her asthma discourage her from exercise heard him, and got herself back on the treadmill. If he could do it, so could she.

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“What he said mattered,” says Dr. Sumego simply.

Who should go to a shared medical appointment?

Shared appointments aren’t for everyone; they’re not designed to replace individual doctor’s appointments or treat urgent or complex medical concerns. But you should ask about participating in a shared medical appointment if you:

  • Need routine follow-up care after your initial visit and physical exam, especially for a chronic condition.
  • Want more information about your specific health problem through an extended visit.
  • Enjoy interacting with other people who have similar concerns and know first-hand what you’re going through.

Though you’re in a group setting, your privacy is secure — each patient signs a confidentiality agreement.

If it’s appropriate for you, talk to your doctor about a shared medical appointment. You may find strength in numbers.

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