79-year-old Al Abram has pulmonary hypertension, which can cause shortness of breath and fainting, and he's not alone. In fact, several of the people observing his visit with Dr. Frank Rahaghi have the same condition.
Patients take turns seeing their pulmonologist in a Cleveland Clinic conference room in Weston during shared medical appointments.
"I find it very beneficial having everyone around with a chronic illness, comparing medicine, how you feel,” said Abram.
Dr. Rahaghi presents an information-packed lecture to his group of patients before he starts to see them.
"Bringing patients together at the same time and explaining to a big group has the educational advantage of leveraging the physicians time,” said Dr. Rahaghi.
Cleveland Clinic was the first in South Florida to introduce the concept of shared medical appointments. The group visit model is expected to become more popular because of health care reform.
Dr. Rahaghi says it will be beneficial to meet the needs of a lot of people at one time. It's also part support group: patients learn from each other.
While Howard Saresky describes this experience as enlightening, he added, "One on one I can talk to the doctor and ask personal things, not that I can't do that here but I don't want to take up the time."
Dr. Rahaghi agrees group appointments are a valuable tool for managing chronic diseases, but not a substitute for a private visit between patient and physician.
"Because there needs to be one on one time where we share secrets or want to chastise them not in public or have a meaningful discussion or important discussion that I think may be inappropriate for others," he said.
The pulmonary hypertension group will spend about three hours with their doctor and his team. Billing for a shared medical appointment is the same as for a private visit.