After practicing acupuncture in the Rogue Valley for more than a decade, Brian Rosenthal thought it was time to change his approach.

After practicing acupuncture in the Rogue Valley for more than a decade, Brian Rosenthal thought it was time to change his approach.

Spurred by others in his profession, Rosenthal has jettisoned the traditional one patient per room treatment in favor of meeting with up to a half-dozen at once.

The idea is to see more patients, while making visits more affordable, says Rosenthal, a graduate of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine's doctoral program.

"It kept coming up over and over, how expensive it was," Rosenthal says, noting previously sessions cost $80 for an initial visit and $50 for follow-ups.

Rosenthal says typical office visits in his field are $60 to $120 per visit and some practitioners charge as much as $250.

"The way acupuncture works best is a lot of visits in a short time," he says. "In some cases, you treat people three times a week. In severe cases, four times a week. That can easily get to $150 to $250 a week and insurance reimbursements are not so great for our profession."

Rosenthal began toying with the concept six months ago. Instead of sticking one patient in each of his office's two treatment rooms, he can see six simultaneously. Most clients pay $25 to $30 per session now and his revenue hasn't fallen appreciably, despite the lower rates.

"I need to see roughly twice as many patients to make the same revenue," he says.

He's been treating 12 to 15 people a day in the 350-square-foot group room since his changeover, reaching a high of 24 on Dec. 20. Under the old arrangement, the most he could see was 10 to 14 a day.

"As an acupuncturist, there is quite a flow you get into," Rosenthal says. "So you can see a lot of people was very easy."

Rosenthal picked up the idea from others in his trade and the acupuncture field isn't alone in its approach.

The group visit concept has gathered steam over the past decade and is an attractive approach, says Will Brake of Executive Practice Management, a Medford medical consulting firm. "There are specific settings where group visits are appropriate, cost effective and don't detract from the quality of care."

Brake cites a study by medical researcher Susan K. Young, who notes: "In today's health care environment, both cost and quality play an active role in the health care decisions. This approach ultimately leads to a higher quality of care and compliance for the patient, which ultimately leads to lower costs."

While predictably some clients have been uncomfortable with the new approach, Rosenthal says patients have handled the transition quite well.

"I've been doing this for four weeks and two people have asked me for private spaces — two out of about 100," he says. "People have been anxious about being in a group, but it really hasn't been a problem. Some have liked it a lot better than they thought they would."

Everyone is fully dressed during treatments, so there aren't privacy issues, he says. "People talk in soft voices and if they need to talk about private issues, I have another room where we can talk."

In one instance four members of the same family came through at the same time.

"Everybody closes their eyes and almost everybody falls asleep," Rosenthal says. "It's a peaceful atmosphere, very relaxing and once your eyes are closed, you're essentially by yourself anyway."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail