Integrative Group Medical Visits: A National Scoping Survey of Safety-Net Clinics

Publication University of California, San Francisco

Ariana Thompson-Lastad, Paula Gardiner, and Maria T. Chao

Health Equity. 2019 Jan 25;3(1):1-8. doi: 10.1089/heq.2018.0081.


Purpose: Integrative group medical visits (IGMVs) aim to increase access to complementary and integrative health care, which is particularly relevant for low-income people. We sought to describe IGMV programs in US safety-net clinics through a survey of providers.

Methods: An online and paper survey was conducted to collect data on the use of complementary health approaches and characteristics of IGMV programs. We recruited a purposive sample of safety-net clinicians via national meetings and listservs.

Results: Fifty-seven clinicians reported on group medical visits. Forty percent worked in federally qualified health centers, 57% in safety-net or teaching hospitals, 23% in other settings such as free clinics. Thirty-seven respondents in 11 states provided care in IGMVs, most commonly for chronic pain and diabetes. Nutrition (70%), mindfulness/meditation/breathing (59%), and tai chi/yoga/other movement practices (51%) were the most common treatment approaches in IGMVs.

Conclusion: Safety-net institutions in 11 states offered IGMVs to treat a range of chronic conditions. IGMVs are an innovative model to improve access to non-pharmacologic approaches to chronic illness care and health promotion. They may advance health equity by serving patients negatively impacted by health and health care disparities.