Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom

Shared Medical Appointments Help Promote Weight Loss, PAMF Research Shows

Latha Palaniappan, M.D., M.S., Principal Investigator, PAMF Research Institute

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States.  Two out of every three adults are either overweight or obese, and would greatly benefit from weight loss to prevent chronic disease, like diabetes.  In order to address this critical issue, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) has piloted an innovative program using Shared Medical Appointments to promote weight loss.

Shared Medical Appointments (SMAs) are group appointments for patients with similar medical concerns.  SMAs include components of a regular office visit, but provide increased time with the physician and allow patients to learn from others.  SMAs provide patients with high-quality medical care and the support of a group environment.

In a specialized SMA designed for weight loss, Amy Muzaffar, M.D., a PAMF Los Altos Center Internal Medicine physician, adapted the Lifestyle Balance Program for PAMF patients.  The Lifestyle Balance Program was developed by the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group and is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Latha Palaniappan, M.D., M.S., an associate investigator at the PAMF Research Institute and her research team, carefully studied the specialized SMAs for more than two years and found that the SMAs were successful in promoting weight loss.  In addition, the more SMAs a patient attended, the more weight was lost.  The findings from this study were accepted in December 2010 for publication by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.  Studies have shown that weight loss can prevent and treat diabetes.

“This study suggests that for doctors who want their patients to lose weight, it may be better to offer longer group visits than short visits with each patient,” said Dr. Palaniappan.  “The group visit offers additional benefits of social support and interaction which have been shown to be helpful for weight loss. Shared Medical Appointments are a new and valuable opportunity for patients who want to lose weight and prevent chronic disease.”

Shared Medical Appointments (SMAs) at PAMF

PAMF offers several SMA groups, covering a wide range of health care issues. Related SMA groups are currently offered in the areas of diabetes, nutrition, and cardiology.  Each SMA group is an appointment with a physician which is additionally supported by a multi-dimensional health care team, such as nurses, medical assistants, and behavioral therapists.  For more information about SMAs at PAMF’s Fremont, Los Altos, and Palo Alto Centers, call 650-853-2283.

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Shared Medical Appointments allow patients to maximize their time and learn from others.