Older adults are commonly accompanied to routine physician visits, primarily by adult children and spouses. This is the first review of studies investigating the dynamics and consequences of patient accompaniment. Two types of evidence were examined: (1) observational studies of audio and/or videotaped medical visits, and (2) surveys of patients, families, or health care providers that ascertained experiences, expectations, and preferences for family companion presence and behaviors in routine medical visits. Meta-analytic techniques were used to summarize the evidence describing attributes of unaccompanied and accompanied patients and their companions, medical visit processes, and patient outcomes. The weighted mean rate of patient accompaniment to routine adult medical visits was 37.6% in 13 contributing studies. Accompanied patients were significantly older and more likely to be female, less educated, and in worse physical and mental health than unaccompanied patients. Companions were on average 63 years of age, predominantly female (79.4%), and spouses (54.7%) or adult children (32.2%) of patients. Accompanied patient visits were significantly longer, but verbal contribution to medical dialog was comparable when accompanied patients and their family companion were compared with unaccompanied patients. When a companion was present, health care providers engaged in more biomedical information giving. Given the diversity of outcomes, pooled estimates could not be calculated: of 5 contributing studies 0 were unfavorable, 3 inconclusive, and 2 favorable for accompanied relative to unaccompanied patients. Study findings suggest potential practical benefits from more systematic recognition and integration of companions in health care delivery processes. We propose a conceptual framework to relate family companion presence and behaviors during physician visits to the quality of interpersonal health care processes, patient self management and health care.
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