NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Group Medical Therapy Raises Questions

August 21, 2000

In an effort to hold down medical costs, some health-maintenance organizations are instituting a procedure called a "group visit." Some doctors laud the practice. But others say it is an affront to the confidential doctor-patient relationship.

  • A group visit entails a doctor calling together perhaps a dozen patients sharing a common ailment and meeting with them for an hour or two -- advising them on treatments and answering their questions.
  • Mass visits can include some private conversation between the doctor and an individual patient as others in the group talk among themselves.
  • For exams that require disrobing, the patient and doctor meet privately before or after the session.
  • Group programs are voluntary for patients and doctors say private appointments are always available for personal or urgent medical problems.

But some managed-care companies aren't thrilled by the idea. A spokesman for Cigna Corp. says his organization believes the patient-physician relationship is a one-on-one relationship -- not a 12-on-one.

Although doctors say group visits can cut a clinic's costs, the patient pays the same as a regular visit.

Source: Barbara Martinez, "Now It's Mass Medicine," Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2000.


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