Efficacy of the Doctor Interactive Group Medical Appointment : examining patient behavioral and attitudinal changes attributed to an integrated healthcare model
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The Doctor Interactive Group Medical Appointment (DIGMA) is a group health intervention that combines the services of behavioral health and primary care. The DIGMA was first invented by Edward Noffsinger in 1996, in response to his own difficulties with the overtaxed primary care system at Kaiser Permanente in California (Noffsinger, 1999). Integrating healthcare services in this way has practical implications such as efficient use of resources, treating multiple complaints at once, and beginning to view the mind and body as one (Noffsinger, 1999; Engel, 1977). The DIGMA at the Austin Veterans Outpatient Clinic was designed to address the specific needs of veterans with hypertension. It consists of 4 sessions of 1.5 hours each and addresses such varied topics as exercise, stress-management, nutrition, and medication adherence. These topics are discussed in a group format with the tenets of group psychotherapy (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005) as a backdrop. An exploratory study was warranted to determine whether programs of this sort would be effective on a broad scale. A pretest/posttest design was utilized to determine if the DIGMA was effective at reducing symptoms of hypertension; improving health promoting behavior; increasing self-efficacy to manage hypertension; and increasing internal health locus of control while decreasing chance and powerful others health locus of control. Groups were conducted over a period of seven months with a total of 73 male veterans enrolled in the study. The final n was 58. Findings indicated that both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings were reduced significantly from pretest to posttest. Health promoting behavior increased significantly; hypertension self efficacy increased significantly; and locus of control did not change significantly from pretest to posttest. The exploratory study concluded that the DIGMA may be efficacious for a variety of aspects of the management of hypertension. It is suggested that further research be conducted but that integrating services in this way can lead to improved patient outcomes and can also be cost-effective.