The prevalence of diabetes mellitus is ubiquitous. Complications and costs of diabetes are rising and are depleting limited resources. It is imperative for healthcare professionals and patients alike to confront this chronic condition by exploring new interventions. An innovative health care delivery model has emerged in the last 25 years in the form of the group medical visit. Group medical visits can range from of six to twenty patients scheduled together with time allotted for individual care as well as in the group setting.
The review objective was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to synthesize the best available evidence related to effectiveness of group medical visits on HbA1c, blood pressure and cholesterol measurements/levels for adult patients with type II diabetes in outpatient settings.
A three-step literature search for studies in English language from 1990 to 2010 was conducted utilising (a) a primary search of Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, (b) a secondary search of non-indexed databases, and (c) a search of the grey literature. In addition, a manual review of the reference lists of all identified reports and articles was performed to identify additional studies.
All randomised and quasi-experimental studies of adult patients (>18) with type II diabetes mellitus seen in outpatient health settings were considered if they met one or more of the following diagnostic outcome measurements: haemoglobin A1c, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and low density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Critical appraisal, data collection and analysis
Each of the eligible articles was reviewed by two independent reviewers. Disagreements between the reviewers were resolved through discussion, or with a third reviewer. Studies that met the inclusion criteria were assessed for methodological quality using the JBI standardized critical appraisal tools. Data extraction was undertaken using the standardised data extraction tool from JBI-MAStARI.
The search strategy identified 2,040 articles in the published and unpublished literature. Of these, 11 randomised controlled trials and 4 quasi-experimental trials met the inclusion criteria and represented 2240 patients included in the final review.
There are clear benefits of group medical visits for patients' HbA1c levels which are consistent in the post-intervention and change from baseline effect sizes. The most significant effect observed is with the change from baseline results. Some evidence suggests post-intervention and change from baseline systolic blood pressure improvement at the nine to twelve month interval and change from baseline improvement at the 4 year timeframe. There is no evidence that group visits improve LDL cholesterol values of the group visit participants.
Group medical visits should be considered by clinicians as an effective non-pharmacologic intervention that can have a positive impact on biologic markers such as haemoglobin A1c and systolic blood pressure.
Implications for practice
The evidence suggests that the most powerful model of Group medical visits (GMV) is when a clinician prescriber is present during or immediately after GMV sessions for medication reconciliation or individual patient needs.
Implications for research
Future research should include this GMV intervention in randomised controlled trials across different health systems and socio-economic and ethnic groups.