Shared Medical Appointments
Spend 90 minutes with your physician and other patients who may have conditions similar to yours. At a Shared Medical Appointment (SMA) your physician will:
- Discuss your medical concerns
- Adjust, refill or prescribe prescriptions
- Order and review tests and procedures
- Conduct examinations, as needed
For more information on SMAs or to schedule an appointment, contact your primary care provider, or call WellSpan HealthSource at (717) 851-3500.
Strength in Numbers
A new type of doctor's appointment is producing results for diabetic patients at WellSpan.
Leslie Nutter had been struggling with diabetes for about 18 years. In search of a better way to comply with his doctor's instructions, he found a solution in the company of others.
As the name suggests, a shared medical appointment, or SMA, allows patients to spend up to 90 minutes with their physician in a group setting with others who share similar medical conditions. The group setting allows patients to have more time with the physician, less time in the waiting room, and the opportunity to learn from the questions and comments of other patients.
"It was good to hear how others are managing their diabetes," says Nutter. "There were people there who have lived with the disease for longer than me, and then there were some who were recently diagnosed. I learned a lot from the issues and questions that others had. By the end of the appointment, the group developed a real sense of camaraderie."
During the appointment, which can include up to 12 patients, the physician circulates the room and talks with each patient individually about health issues, checking specific measures and ordering prescriptions or tests as necessary. In an SMA with diabetes patients, for example, the physician might review blood sugar levels, talk about diet and exercise, and discuss medication usage.
"Many diabetes patients tend not to follow their doctor's instructions on how to manage their disease," says Alpa Patel, M.D., an endocrinologist with WellSpan Endocrinology. "Since I started the SMA, I have seen a 30 percent improvement in patients following diets more closely and taking their medications."
SMAs also help to ease the patients' feeling that they are the only ones dealing with the circumstances of a particular disease. "The appointment made me realize that I'm not alone," says Patricia Vinup, who was diagnosed with diabetes nearly 13 years ago. "I don't feel so bad knowing that there are others struggling with diabetes. Because of the advice offered by Dr. Patel and the group, I know that my levels will be lower by my next appointment."
Patients of an SMA benefit from the same privacy and confidentiality standards of a conventional medical appointment. All personal information discussed during the visit remains confidential, and in fact, all patients sign a notice of confidentiality before the SMA begins. An SMA is billed the same way as a regular appointment with no additional charge for the extra time spent with the physician. Insurance plans cover the SMA as a typical office visit.
In addition to WellSpan Endocrinology and WellSpan Rheumatology, physician practices offering shared medical appointments include:
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a shared medical appointment?
A shared medical appointment (SMA) is a 90 minute physician appointment in the company of other patients who share conditions similar to yours. Examinations are completed privately, as necessary.
What are the advantages of an SMA?
The advantages for patients are more time with your physician, no waiting room time, increased access to your doctor, and the opportunity to learn from the questions and comments of others. Patients leave with a great deal more information, answers to questions they never thought to ask, and sometimes, new friends. For physicians, the SMA helps improve backlogged schedules, allows more time for patient education and increases access to care by providing more appointment slots within a given period of time.
Is the SMA a seminar?
No. The shared medical appointment is not a seminar, but an actual office visit to your physician. The same exam, lab review, and time for questions you would experience in a traditional office visit takes place here. Many people think the SMA is a seminar because of the wealth of information they obtain and the length of time scheduled.
Once I try an SMA, do I have to always visit my doctor in an SMA?
No. The SMA was designed as a way to get more time and more education with your doctor. Over 85 percent of the patients who try a SMA want to return, but you are under no obligation to do so. If you prefer the individual appointment, you may schedule one at any time.
Will my insurance pay for a SMA?
Yes. The appointment is the same billing-wise as a regular appointment. There are no extra charges for the extra time spent with the physician. Your insurance will cover this as a typical office visit. Typical co-pays apply.
Can I get my medications in an SMA?
Anything you would normally do in an individual office visit can be done in an SMA. When you leave you will have any prescriptions the physician deems appropriate, as well as office tests, vaccinations and plan for your next steps to improved health.
Can I bring a family member or friend with me?
Yes. It is fine to have a family member or support person present in the SMA. All "guests" will be asked to sign the same confidentiality statement that the patients sign.