Medical Visit Companions Improve Experience for Older Patients

When a companion accompanies an older patient to a routine medical visit, the patients report higher satisfaction with the doctor’s skills and the information they received.

In a study of over 12,000 Medicare beneficiaries, nearly 40 percent had someone come with them to their medical appointments. More than half were spouses, about a third were adult children. Other companions included roommates, friends, neighbors, and other relatives.

Older and less-educated patients and those who were in poorer health, were more likely to have someone come to the doctor with them. On average, accompanied patients had twice the Medicare medical expenses.

Companions helped with communication during the visit by

  • Recording or writing down doctor instructions.
  • Providing information about patient illness or needs.
  • Asking questions.
  • Explaining the doctor’s instructions.

Patients who rated their health the worst also had the strongest satisfaction with their doctor’s care if they were accompanied by someone else.

Jennifer L. Wolff, Ph,D. and Debra L. Roter, Dr.PH., MPH concluded,

Visit companions are commonly present in older adults’ routine medical encounters, actively engaged in care processes, and influential to patients’ satisfaction with physician care. More systematic recognition and integration of visit companions in health care processes may benefit quality of care for a particularly vulnerable patient population.

SOURCE: Wolff et al. Archives of Internal Medicine, Volume 168, Number 13, July 14, 2008.

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