The idea of attending a doctor’s visit in a group might strike you as strange at first. After all, we’ve always only known the paradigm of private consultation. However, when you consider some of the benefits of this alternative, the idea will quickly grow on you.
That is the main argument behind the recently published Community Cure, by James Maskell.
Maskell is a healthcare entrepreneur working at the intersection of Functional medicine and community. He is the co-founder of multiple companies including the Functional Forum (the world’s largest integrative medicine conference), the Evolution of Medicine (a resource for doctors looking to transition their practice to functional medicine), and Knew Health (a community-based health care system).
The Community Cure is Maskell’s second book. It is based on the innovative premise that using group visits as a building block for providing medical care can have a significant positive impact across many of the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry today: epidemic levels of chronic diseases such as diabetes, escalating costs, limited access, and physician shortages and burnout.
Maskell has seen first-hand how a functional medicine approach applied in group settings can have a remarkable impact on health outcomes of participants. He also has seen the potential of these groups to be a solution for another key lifestyle factor that has been widely associated with a variety of health conditions and shorter lifespans: social isolation.
“Discussing health challenges openly with others leads to an openness and vulnerability that provides for fertile ground to develop strong relationships.”
Maskell sees the function of the health group transcending into small communities that provide the connectivity and companionship that is increasingly lacking among older adults.
Why groups are more effective than the current paradigm
Maskell points out that lifestyle adjustments around nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mental health are best implemented using group settings. This is because such settings introduce social dynamics, and such peer to peer relationships are completely absent from how healthcare services are delivered today:
- A group setting establishes a better framework for achieving and maintaining lifestyle changes in that it provides for accountability, support, and mentorship in a way that a 1:1 doctor relationship usually does not;
- When we are part of a group, we feel more accountable to others for our results, which is the basic premise of support groups for treating addictions or other types of unhealthy behaviors;
- Group visits can be moderated by professional health coaches, which tend to be more approachable and relatable than doctors. This makes it easier for patients to feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and challenges;
- The group setting also provides opportunities for learning from the experiences of fellow patients. Someone who has gone through a health transformation can play a huge role in educating and inspiring others to pursue their individual health journeys. As a result participants feel more empowered to improve their health.
What You Can Do
The Cleveland Clinic has been one of the high profile medical institutions that is pioneering group visits in the context of functional medicine. Their medical director is Dr. Mark Hyman. You can learn more about their approach and even sign up for virtual meetings here.