Fox News ridiculed a rise in group doctor visits as the network claimed that it will become more prevalent with the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But Fox's coverage of this trend ignored reporting that group treatment can be a successful strategy for reducing healthcare costs and improving patients' health.
On the August 18 edition of Fox & Friends, guest host Peter Johnson, Jr. introduced one of the show's regular "Who's Ruining The Economy" segments with the question: "[I]s less one on one time with your doctor going to be the new future under Obamacare?" before welcoming Fox News contributor Charles Payne on to discuss the increasing trend of doctors offering group appointments. After Johnson ridiculed the group doctor visits as "group therapy ... people sitting around in underwear talking about their problems," Payne predicted that it would be one of the "gimmicks" that the ACA would come to rely on to address doctor shortages as health insurance enrollment increases:
PAYNE: And these numbers, I think, are probably underscoring what's gonna really happen. Because you and I know a lot of doctors who are saying you know I want to opt out of this whole thing completely, I'll just take cash. I mean, the best doctors will be able to command cash payments from good patients, or well-off patients. So, the reality is that those numbers are probably going to be significantly higher. And again, the gimmicks will be group therapy. The gimmicks will be, you know what, I can't see you but my nurse has been with me for a long time. She's equally qualified.
Fox neglected to mention that group doctor visits have been shown to be effective at improving doctors' efficiency and the standard of care that some patients receive.
As Johnson noted, group appointments have been on the rise in recent years. In 2005, just 5.7 percent of family physicians offered group sessions, but by 2010, the number had more than doubled to 12.7 percent. Dr. Edward Noffsinger, a physician who advises others on how to implement group appointments, says that patients have highlighted the advantages of the joint care. "Patients like the diversity of issues discussed," he told Kaiser Health News, adding, "they like getting 2 hours with their doctor." Patients may also learn more in a group setting, Kaiser Health News reported: "[d]octors say patients may learn more from each other than they do from physicians."
Research has shown that group appointments can improve the quality of care that patients receive. NPR highlighted an Italian trial of more than 800 type 2 diabetes patients which found that those randomly assigned to participate in group appointments for period of four years "had lower blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass indexes." And according to Time, "[a]bout 85% of patients who try shared medical appointments don't go back to individual visits for everything from diabetes care to weight loss, physicals and skin cancer issues." Time also noted that "[w]hile group visits cost about the same as individual ones, if patients receive more information and are better able to improve and protect their health, they are less likely to develop serious medical conditions that require expensive care later on."