Shared appointments keep Veterans healthy. As part of its efforts to increase patient access and satisfaction, Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System is now offering shared medical appointments (SMAs) for Veterans with specific medical diagnoses.
During SMAs, eight to 12 diabetic patients and their family members are invited to a group meeting, during which they can discuss their successes, ask questions, and meet with various specialists as well as their primary care provider.
“This is an innovative alternative to the traditional one-on-one patient/doctor visit,” said Ladonna Yankowsky, a registered nurse on Dr. Grace Chen’s Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) in Baton Rouge. “Our clinic focuses on Veterans with diabetes.”
“Usually we would see our patients two or three times a year, and Dr. Chen felt that just wasn’t enough to help keep our patients stable,” Yankowsky said. By scheduling one monthly group meeting, rather than several individual 20-30 minute appointments, Chen’s team is able to monitor high-risk patients while still maintaining open access to appointments for other patients.
“Seeing the doctor every month is a real help,” said Vietnam Veteran Ben Williams, who served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1975. “I’ve been doing this for four or five months and every time I come, I learn a little more.”
Podiatrists, nutritionists and ophthalmologists join the team during SMAs to address Veterans’ concerns and answer questions without the need for scheduling consult appointments, creating a more convenient treatment option for the patients.
Each SMA is different, covering Veteran-driven topics in addition to basic health check-ins.
“I’ve had to learn to stop preparing for a lecture,” said Registered Dietitian Aggie Domino. “I arrive with a topic in mind, but every month my role varies. It all depends on what the Veterans are concerned with that day.”
As the Veterans become more comfortable with the group setting, they begin to open up and ask more questions, Williams said.
“We talk a lot on the side and sometimes it triggers more questions for the doctors. I went through a lot with my diabetes before I learned to control it. I can share that experience with the others and tell them what not to do,” he added.
Yankowsky said, “They share their personal experiences to encourage and support one another. This is truly a patient-centered clinic.”