In April of this year, MGH Back Bay began trying out a new model for delivering care and education for their diabetes community: shared group medical visits. Led by a nurse practitioner, a diabetes nurse educator and a registered dietitian, these shared visits are offered to people with prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes (newly diagnosed or anyone needing a little extra help bringing blood sugars under control). Visits are divided into two sessions, two weeks apart. The first session focuses on diabetes basics and nutrition; the second covers nutrition in more detail and reviews complications.
At the beginning of each session, the nurse practitioner meets with each participant for a short individual visit. A larger group discussion takes place afterwards. Although there is a curriculum with prepared material about A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol (LDL), the discussion is allowed to grow organically. Questions are encouraged and participants are welcome to share personal stories if they wish. Opportunities for hands-on learning are woven into the session, such as exercises on reading food labels or using rice in a shoe to illustrate symptoms of neuropathy. At the end of the second session, participants are asked to identify and write down one or two goals to work on. The diabetes nurse educator mails these goals two months after the group as a reminder of what was motivating them during the visit.
Response to the shared group visits has been very positive. The opportunity to talk about living with diabetes and learn tips from peers for overcoming every day challenges is a highlight for many. Much of the success of this visit model is the emphasis on team-based care. One of the reasons for offering shared visits was providing better access to nutrition education. Since a registered dietitian is there for the visit, participants do not need to schedule a separate appointment. The group setting also helps reduce anxiety some feel about seeing a dietitian. In addition to clinical outcomes (improved A1C, reduced weight), scheduling a follow up visit with a dietitian is considered a mark of success for this visit model.
More shared group medical visits have been planned for the fall. Given how well visits have gone so far, the practice is considering offering shared group visits for other chronic conditions such as hypertension