Shared Medical Appointments: What are they and are they right for you?
By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on November 08, 2011 • Updated March 02, 2021
Shared medical appointments (SMA) are a series of individual visits done in the presence of others. These sessions offer individual appointments in the presence of others with insight, advice and support from a variety of women dealing with similar symptoms or conditions like yourself.
Relaxing, Open Environment
Personally, I really enjoy seeing women patients back in an SMA forum, as it gives my patients the opportunity to find the information, education, and support they need during a potentially challenging time, like menopause or other women’s health conditions. Plus, there is simply more time in 90 minutes than there is in a 10-minute appointment!
Session rooms are equipped with comfortable chairs. A nurse or social worker serves as the manager of the visit and I see each woman individually, but in the presence of other patients. I find that many of my patients benefit from these sessions because they can hear how other women with similar problems are being treated, and have more time for personalized interaction with me as well as with my wonderful nursing staff.
Doctor One-on-One Time
SMAs also give me the opportunity to meet with my patients more often to receive or review test results, follow up on prescriptions and address any questions or concerns they may have. Plus, patients have the opportunity to check in with me or bring up anything they might have forgotten during their regular doctor visits. SMAs also allow for more flexibility. For example, if a patient is running late, they don’t have to rush because the sessions run a full 90 minutes.
Who is the Best Candidate for Shared Medical Appointments?
SMAs are not for everyone and are not appropriate for:
- Initial evaluations
- One-time consultations
- Complex medical problems
- Treatment of acute illnesses, vaginal discharge, a new breast lump, abnormal menstrual bleeding or other urgent medical concerns
- Women who may be too sensitive to listen to other patients’ issues
- Patients who have difficulty communicating or who have a language barrier
However, SMAs are right for women who:
- Need routine follow-up care
- Want more information on health problems and/or want advice about what they are hearing in the media
- Benefit from mind-body care or more time with a physician
- Require frequent return visits
Interested in attending an SMA? Talk to your doctor to find out if there are Shared Medical Appointments available in your area and if you qualify.
- Dr. Holly L. Thacker
Holly L. Thacker, MD, FACP is nationally known for her leadership in women’s health. She is the founder of the Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Fellowship and is currently the Professor and Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Thacker is also the Executive Director of Speaking of Women’s Health and the author of The Cleveland Clinic Guide to Menopause. Her special interests and areas of research including menopause and related medical problems including osteoporosis, hormone therapy, breast cancer risk assessment, menstrual disorders, female sexual dysfunction and interdisciplinary women’s health.
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