Shared Medical Appointments Support Diabetes Patients After Discharge

Health-system pharmacists should fill their patients with diabetes in on the benefits of shared medical appointments after hospital discharge.

Health-system pharmacists should fill their patients with diabetes in on the benefits of shared medical appointments after hospital discharge.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, shared medical appointments “offer an innovative, interactive approach to health care that brings patients with common needs together with 1 or more health care providers. While an individual appointment typically lasts 15 to 30 minutes, a shared appointment is 90 minutes long, allowing participants to spend more time with the health care team.”

Shared medical appointments help improve provider productivity and capacity by streamlining counseling for groups of patients with many of the same needs and goals, such as diabetes patients.

Pharmacists are often called on to provide education on medication use, including administration, steps of therapy, adverse effects, and general counseling tips. Patients engaging in group discussions are then provided with the opportunity to ask any questions related to their medications.

For example, pharmacists can provide essential glucose monitoring counseling points and address the concerns of individual patients with the entire group, thereby providing counseling for problems that other patients may not have experienced yet.

“I think [pharmacists] could talk to patients all day about glucose monitoring points,” Katie Traylor, PharmD, a PGY2 resident in Ambulatory Care & Family Medicine at the University of Utah Health Care System, told Pharmacy Times. “Sometimes, it’s hard for them to determine what’s most important at a patient’s initial encounter….and it’s hard for the patients to retain a lot of the information they’re getting in the hospital.”

Beyond medications, shared medical appointments are a natural venue for patients to share their experiences with living and managing diabetes. Increased peer support may help patients feel less alone about their disease state and help inspire them to manage their condition more effectively.

“In this setting, we want to encourage [patients] to share advice with each other about diabetes,” Dr. Traylor explained.

During shared medical appointments, patients with diabetes are “able to bounce ideas off each other in a way that [providers] can’t really offer since [they] have not walked in their shoes with that disease state,” she said.

Dr. Traylor has observed some patients with diabetes becoming friends outside of the shared medical appointment context. Sometimes, she sees them attending exercise classes together and offering each other insight on what has and hasn’t worked for them in their management strategy.

Despite all of the benefits of shared medical appointments, participating providers do face their own set of challenges and uncertainties, at least at the outset.

“It’s sort of a daunting and confusing concept when a [health care professional] first hears about them…[because] it may be outside of what most providers are comfortable doing,” Dr. Traylor noted.

However, that uncertainty usually vanishes once providers have participated in 1 or 2 sessions and have gotten a feel for the dynamic.

“I’ve only gotten positive feedback from the providers who choose to get involved in it,” she noted.

The shared medical appointment model has proven effective in other disease states, including inflammatory bowel disease, chronic heart failure, and addiction.