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Mary Heiska Ryan, Medical Home

Mary Heiska-Ryan worked with a care coordinator to set weight loss goals and stay on track. Read her story.

Group Health Appointments

A new way of engaging with patients, group health appointments are offered at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Westbrook Health Center, where diabetic patients meet for two and a half hours to learn more about their disease. At each quarterly appointment, a guest expert discusses a specific aspect of diabetes and everyone receives helpful handouts. Each patient also has a one-on-one traditional appointment with Medical College of Wisconsin internist Mohan Dhariwal, DO, PhD, before or after the group visit.

It’s an investment in time for everyone, but research shows that the patient education, regular interaction with a health care team and even the dynamic of being “accountable” to a group pays off by helping patients stay healthier, reducing the number of visits to the emergency room and keeping patients from having to be admitted to the hospital. Group appointments are among myriad ways health care is changing to treat patients’ illnesses and keep them well.

Addressing Challenges in Managing Chronic Disease

“The group appointments address some of the biggest challenges in managing all chronic diseases – patient education, engagement or getting them on board with the care plan and follow-up care,” Dr. Dhariwal said. “The interaction between group members and all the staff is incredible. We get to know each other and trust each other, and patients have confidence and buy-in to their own health. It’s also a flexible model of care, so those who need extra care get it, and we can refer a patient to a specialist such an endocrinologist if needed.”

For patient Monica, 66, who was diagnosed with diabetes about 15 years ago, the group appointments have made all the difference.

“For the first time in 15 years my blood sugar levels are where they should be for over a year, and my blood pressure and cholesterol are better than ever, and the group visits are a big reason,” Monica said. During one meeting, when the topic was medications, Monica says she learned a lot more about the four different medications she has taken over the years. “I never heard that sort of detail about how they worked and why from my doctor at the time,” she said.

“For management of many chronic diseases, everything from COPD to asthma and heart failure, this absolutely is a way of the future,” said Dr. Dhariwal.