Shared Medical Appointments: An Innovation in Care

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Workit Health recently announced a transition to Shared Medical Appointments for follow-up care. Here are some basics about Shared Medical Appointments.

We’re excited to offer our members clinical recovery care, peer connection, and recovery support all in one visit.

What are Shared Medical Appointments?

As a general definition, Shared Medical Appointments (SMAs) are appointments in which a group of people with similar medical needs receives care together. Here at Workit Health, that “group of people” is made up of fellow members at Workit Health who share the same recovery program, and the care is provided by both a licensed medical provider and a member of the behavioral health team.

An SMA at Workit Health is an hour long and covers the topics that members previously addressed in 1:1 appointments, like how their medication is working and any challenges and successes they’re encountering in their recovery. The participation of other members means that members can support one another, sharing their own experiences and adding their voices to any common circumstances. The behavioral health team member can help members develop and maintain effective coping tools for their recovery.

Are Shared Medical Appointments used elsewhere in the medical community?

Shared appointments have been successful for people with many kinds of health concerns, from Type-2 diabetes to cardiac rehabilitation to pregnancy. They are also being used to treat substance use disorders. Depending on the treatment provider, this kind of appointment might be called by a different name, like “group visit” or “group care.” We spoke with some providers who called it “group-based opioid treatment (GBOT)” at their practice.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) calls group visits “a proven, effective method for enhancing a patient’s self-care, increasing patient satisfaction, and improving outcomes.”

Is there any evidence that this model will work for Workit Health?

Along with the published research showing that SMAs are effective for medical care in general, we do have evidence that they work well for Workit Health, in particular. In 2023 we conducted a pilot program in which a number of Workit Health members took part in SMAs. Members and providers alike gave very positive feedback. Surveyed participants rated their experience an average of 4.5 out of 5 on a scale from 1-5 (with 5 being excellent). This pilot program made it clear that SMAs could be great for Workit Health members.

Why do members appreciate Shared Medical Appointments?

When we asked participants in the pilot program which aspects of the SMA were most helpful, they said:

  • getting support from and hearing the experiences of other members.
  • having more time with providers.
  • being able to see providers and behavioral health team members in a single appointment.

In his webinar with Community Manager Max Backer, Dr. Justin Coffey also pointed out that having multiple members together in an appointment can shift the perceived balance of power. Members feel like they have more of a voice to speak up, because they aren’t alone with their provider.

SMAs also make rescheduling appointments easier when a member has to miss or cancel an appointment. Instead of waiting for a provider to have an open 1:1 appointment slot, members can be added to the next convenient SMA. Since attending appointments is vitally important to getting their buprenorphine prescriptions, this scheduling flexibility is a huge relief to members with opioid use disorder.

What do providers like about Shared Medical Appointments?

Members aren’t the only ones who like SMAs. Providers love having more time with the members they’re treating. An hour-long SMA offers more opportunities to really engage with their members (and for the members to engage with one another). Providers also appreciate the insights that come from having a behavioral health team member in the appointment.

Another major benefit to providers is that they can treat more members. Providers get into medicine because they want to help people, but there is only so much time in a day. In some areas, appointments for opioid use disorder are hard to come by. SMAs allow providers to meet with and care for more members, give them the medical care they need, and make it possible for them to get prescriptions for their medication.

How do you attend a Shared Medical Appointment in a telehealth program?

Workit Health members attend all of their appointments via video conferencing, so in that way, SMAs are no different. Members access the secure link to the online appointment via their Workit Health app and follow it to join the virtual meeting room. Workit Health staff confirm everyone’s identity to protect the privacy of all attendees.

Where can I learn more about Shared Medical Appointments?

Learn more about SMAs and read our FAQs on our Shared Medical Appointment webpage.

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Alaine Sepulveda is a content strategist in recovery from alcohol. She believes that engaging people and sharing stories with them allows us to spread knowledge, and to help others in the path to recovery. She holds an MA in Communication Studies from New Mexico State University.

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