CHAMPAIGN — Sometimes, a doctor just can't do everything she wants to do for her patients in 15 minutes.
So Dr. Ona Uzodike found a way to get some big chunks of time with her patients with chronic health conditions. She's offering the option of two-hour group appointments.
Uzodike, a Christie Clinic family medicine physician, began offering group appointments for patients in July, and is the only Christie doctor who has expressed interest in the group appointment concept so far, clinic spokeswoman Karen Blatzer said.
Uzodike said she wanted to try it because it takes time to explain things that can help patients with certain chronic conditions, and it's difficult to do in a typical 15-minute follow-up visit.
By creating three group appointment options — for patients with heart disease, diabetes or pre-diabetes and depression — she gets more time to explain things, and patients get time to ask her questions, she said.
Some patients come to just one group appointment and get what they need, she said.
"I've had some people who like the group environment, so they come back just for the group," she added.
Uzodike said she also spends time on individual concerns during the group appointments, but what people disclose about themselves in a group setting is up to them.
"It's a regular visit with me, but there's just more people there," she said.
Patients at group appointments do sign privacy waivers promising not to disclose information about other patients in the group, Uzodike said.
The emphasis is on giving patients information to help them lead healthier lives, she said.
"You want people to get better, not taking medication year after year," she said.
Patients are charged their normal copayment for a group visit, and all patients are welcome to come to a group appointment as long as they see her first for an individual appointment, Uzodike said. Coming to one of her group appointments doesn't require switching primary care doctors, she added.
She conducts one of these group appointments once a week, and "so far so good," the doctor said. "It's a new thing. It's new for the staff. It's new for the patients."
The only issue so far is getting some patients to take that much time away from work and come to a two-hour doctor's appointment, Uzodike said.
"They don't understand the concept," she added.