The impact of family presence on the physician-cancer patient interaction

Soc Sci Med. 1991;33(11):1253-61. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(91)90073-l.


Physician behaviors were studied in 473 interactions between oncologists and adult cancer outpatients. Ninety-nine of these interactions occurred when family members were present during the visit. Patients with family members present were likely to be sicker as demonstrated by a poorer performance status. Contrary to earlier reports, age of the patient did not predict whether the patient was likely to be accompanied by a family member. The physician behaviors were factor analyzed to produce six factors and a multivariate analysis of variance was conducted using the presence of family and performance status as independent variables. The time the physician spent in the patient's room, patient satisfaction and quality of life were also examined in separate analyses. The time the physician spent with the patient was greater when family were present. The results showed that, in general, physicians provide more information when patients are accompanied by family members, or if no family are present, when the patient has a worse performance status. Patient satisfaction and quality of life were rated lower for patients with a worse performance status and were not impacted by physician behaviors. Physicians' behavior was affected by both the presence of a family member, and the patient's performance status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology / standards*
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Quality of Life
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors