Group Medical Visits 2.0: The Open Source Wellness Behavioral Pharmacy Model

J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Oct;25(10):1026-1034. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0079. Epub 2019 Aug 28.


Objectives: The Open Source Wellness (OSW) model was designed to function as a behavioral pharmacy; an affordable, accessible delivery system for a universal experiential prescription: MOVE (physical activity), NOURISH (healthy meals), CONNECT (social support), and BE (stress reduction). This study evaluates the OSW model in a billable group medical visit (GMV) format in a federally qualified health center (FQHC). Intervention: Patients with behaviorally mediated conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, as well as poor social determinants of health, such as food insecurity, were prescribed participation in the OSW program by their medical team. Groups met for 2 h each week for 16 weeks to complete 30 min of socially engaging physical activity, 5 min of mindfulness meditation, a 10-min interactive, didactic health lesson, a 5-min nutrition lesson, and 60 min of small-group coaching over a plant-based meal. Paraprofessional health coaches worked with participants in small groups to provide support and create accountability to goals. In addition, participants received a $10 voucher to Food Farmacy, which provided free produce. Subjects: The sample consisted of 49 patients from the Hayward Wellness Center, an FQHC in Hayward, California. They were mostly women, 59.6%, and racially and ethnically diverse: 23.1% African American, 5.8% Asian, 26.9% Hispanic/Latino, 11.5% Pacific Islander, and 32.7% Caucasian. Participants averaged 59.1 years of age (SD = 10.6). Outcome measures: Blood pressure and weight were recorded weekly. Demographic and acute care utilization data were drawn from the electronic medical record. Self-report questionnaires assessed diet, exercise, and mood on a monthly basis. Methods and results: Longitudinal data were analyzed with linear mixed models. Participants (n = 49) demonstrated significant increases in daily servings of fruits and vegetables, b = 0.31, p < 0.01, and exercise, b = 11.50, p < 0.01, as well as significant reductions in body mass index, b = -0.10, p = 0.05. Acute care utilization decrease was not statistically significant, b = -0.07, p = 0.14. Depressed patients (n = 11) saw reductions in depression, b = -1.72, p < 0.01, and hypertensive patients (n = 24) saw reductions in systolic blood pressure, b = -4.04, p < 0.01, but not diastolic blood pressure, b = 0.04, p = 0.95. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the effectiveness of the OSW behavioral pharmacy model within a GMV context; pathways for adaptation, spread/scale, and incorporation of this work as a component of the broader health ecosystem and national commitment to health equity are discussed.

Keywords: behavioral medicine; chronic disease; healthcare delivery; underserved populations.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Behavioral Medicine / methods*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Shared Medical Appointments*
  • Social Support