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Group Doctor Visits May Help Parkinson’s Patients

Researchers Say Group Sessions Give Patients More Time With Doctors

More Time With Doctor in Group Sessions

Stephen G. Reich, MD, co-director of the Parkinson's disease and Movement Disorders Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, co-authored an editorial accompanying the new study with William J. Weiner, MD, chair of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Group visits are “one potential part of care, not a solution,” he says. “It is challenging to meet the needs of people with Parkinson’s disease and group visits are not a substitute for one-on-one visits, but may be an adjunct.”

In these group sessions, “patients may have more time with the physician and there could be mutual support from other patients and caregivers,” he says.

Parkinson’s is more than just a movement disorder. Besides tremor, stiffness, slowness, and imbalance, people with Parkinson’s disease also are prone to depression and anxiety, cognitive impairment including hallucination, sleep disorders, swallowing difficulty, bladder and bowel problems, pain, numbness and tingling, he says. Caregiver issues are also paramount, Reich says.

“How could you really cover all of those things in the usual half-an-hour visit?”

"The idea is fascinating," says Michele Tagliati, MD, director of the movement disorders program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

But "people with Parkinson's disease are all fairly different in terms of their needs and how they present, so for this to work a great amount of time would be needed to put people with similar features, questions, and stages of the disease together in a group," he says.

"It does seem to have a support group function including disease education and the idea of sharing strategies to cope with Parkinson's, which could be a complement to medical care as we currently practice it," says Blair Ford, MD, a professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and a scientific advisor for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation.

"Most of the patients [in the study] had relatively mild disease and were highly motivated and educated, yet it took researchers a long time to recruit such a small number of patients, so there are some obstacles," he says. 

"It may be that there is an unmet need for support groups," Ford says.

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