Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bringing Companions to Medical Visits: US Study

According to a survey of 12,018 US Medicare beneficiaries 65 years or older, bringing a family member or friend to medical visits improves patient satisfaction with medical care. Researchers found that:

  • 38.6 percent of participants reported regularly being accompanied to medical visits
  • Companions included spouses (53.3 percent); adult children (31.9 percent); other relatives (6.8 percent); roommates, friends or neighbours (5.2 percent); non-relatives (2.8 percent); or nurses, nurse aides or legal or financial officers (less than 1 percent)
  • 63.8 percent of companions helped with communication, including 44.1 percent who recorded physician comments and instructions, 41.5 percent who communicated information about the patient’s medical condition to the physician, 41 percent who asked questions, 29.7 percent who explained physician’s instructions and 3.3 percent who translated the English language
  • 28.4 percent of companions were reported to be present for company and moral support, 52.3 percent to assist with transportation, 16.6 percent to help schedule appointments and 8.4 percent to provide physical assistance.
Beneficiaries with regular companions were more highly satisfied with their physician’s technical skills, information-giving and interpersonal skills. Those whose companions more actively helped with communication rated their physicians’ information-giving and interpersonal skills more favourably. This relationship was stronger among patients who reported themselves to be in worse health.

Jennifer L. Wolff; Debra L. Roter
Hidden in Plain Sight: Medical Visit Companions as a Resource for Vulnerable Older Adults
Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(13):1409-1415.