By Kerry Connolly, WBZ-TV

It’s a faster way to make doctor appointments, patients can get an hour or more with their physician, and it’s cutting down on health care costs.

The catch? You’ll have to see the doctor with a group of strangers.

It’s called the group visit and the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center has been a pioneer in this now growing trend of health care.

“I think everyone wants to get on board with group visits because it’s a much less expensive way to deliver health care,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Geller.

Instead of struggling to see two patients an hour, like some physicians, Dr. Geller can see eight or more.

The groups meet once a week and it’s up to patients to decide if they want one-on-one time with the doctor.

“They can also ask questions that don’t require a doctor’s appointment, but something that they are concerned about.” Like the flu shot or questions about a medication explains Dr. Geller.

The Lawrence center sees 40 groups a week for a variety of conditions including heart disease risk, diabetes, chronic pain, obesity, and pre-natal care.

Dr. Geller says the patients are not just benefiting from seeing the doctor, but each other as well.

“People who are doing well can teach the other people… which isn’t something you can communicate in a one-on-one individual visit.”

Many groups require patients to sign confidentially agreements. So that anything discussed in the group setting is still considered private.

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