PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – People ride the bus, go to the game and eat with strangers – so how about going to the doctor with a group of strangers?

“To share my health concerns with another person, I don’t think I could do that,” said one person.

“It would be helpful to hear what other patients have to say in terms of different concerns they have,” said another.

Doctors would see patients with about a half-dozen other people.

“It’s not a group where you think of everyone sitting there with all their hospital gowns on,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Amelia Pare.

A group visit with patients with the same medical issue is more popular than you might think.

“Once they had a group visit, 89 percent of them went right back to the group visits,” said Pare.

Patients get to ask questions and hear answers, even about things they didn’t think to ask about themselves.

Dr. Pare doesn’t offer group visits, but has had patients who have participated in them locally.

She says the arrangement may cut costs.

“We want to make sure that people’s dollars are spent the most efficiently,” she said. “And if that means you would have more people get together and get information collectively, and then see their doctor as far as the physical exam separately, if that’s going to be more efficient, and it benefits the patient, I think that’s a great idea.”

It’s more suited for people with certain conditions, such as diabetes, as specific type of cancer, joint replacement or obesity.

“These would be for focused visits,” Pare said. “So hip surgery, knee surgery, breast surgery.”

Of course, everyone involved would have to sign privacy agreements.

“It shouldn’t be a replacement for your traditional doctor-patient relationship, but it should hopefully be a better experience … most of them were really nervous at first, and then once they got there, they said it was a lot less intimidating.”

We don’t know yet if people taking part in these types of visits end up being healthier than those going the traditional route, but some people find they learn more about their disease and it helps them take better care of themselves.

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Dr. Maria Simbra