Group Visits: A Qualitative Review of Current Research

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Abstract

Purpose

The group visit model has emerged as one possible solution to problems posed by the limitations of current structures of care and the demands of a growing chronic illness load. In this article, we summarize current group visit research and develop suggestions for furthering this care model.

Methods

An electronic review of all group visit articles published from the years 1974 to 2004 was conducted via the PubMed and MedLine databases. Reference sections of articles thus obtained were mined for additional citations. Articles were excluded if: (1) they were not research studies (ie, purely descriptive, with no evaluative component); or (2) the group visit intervention was subsumed under larger primary or hospital-based interventions.

Results

Although the heterogeneity of the studies presented renders the assessment of this care model problematic, there is sufficient data to support the effectiveness of group visits in improving patient and physician satisfaction, quality of care, quality of life, and in decreasing emergency department and specialist visits.

Conclusion

Group visits are a promising approach to chronic care management for the motivated patient. Future research may benefit, however, from abandoning old nomenclatures and clearly defining the structure, processes of care, content of visits, and appropriate outcome measures.

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