Background: The purpose of this study was to assess the behavior and preferences of patients regarding family involvement in their routine health care visits.
Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was given to a convenience sample of patients visiting a family medicine center for an appointment.
Results: Thirty-nine percent of patients came to the physician's office with a family member or friend. Married patients and those with higher emotional involvement scores were significantly more likely to come to the office with someone. Two thirds of accompanied patients reported that this person came into the examination room with them. One third of the accompanied patients, however, thought that their physician was unaware that someone had accompanied them to the office. The majority (55%) of patients indicated that they would prefer to have a friend or family member in the examination room with them for some of their visits. No patient indicated that they never wanted a family member or friend to come into the examination room.
Conclusions: Patients prefer direct family involvement in their health care more often than what occurs in practice. Physicians can easily address this discrepancy by asking patients whether and in what way they would like others to be involved in their health care.