Sharing Medical Appointments, Supporting Each Other

There are over 27 million people in the U.S. living with chronic kidney disease, but only about 5,000 nephrologists nationwide, placing limitations on the number of individual medical appointments that can be made. Faculty members in the Department of Medicine’s division of Nephrology have pioneered the use of Shared Medical Appointments (SMA), a way for medical professionals to see patients as a group.

During SMAs, patients with the same or similar types of kidney disease talk with multiple physicians and providers in a group setting to ask questions, share concerns, and learn not only from their healthcare practitioners but also from each other. Each group member signs privacy forms, and any physical exams are done in private. The groups remain together and meet every month to every few months, depending on the condition the members have in common.

In addition to sharing medical information, many SMA participants open up to one another. One patient who was feeling extremely discouraged was considering stopping dialysis. His SMA group convinced him to continue, and now the lab numbers measuring the removal of toxins from his blood have been improving. Realizing that someone else is going through a similar experience helps patients feel less isolated and form a supportive network, improving their quality of life and even affecting their recovery.