Roles and influence of people who accompany patients on visits to the doctor

Can Fam Physician. 1998 Aug;44:1644-50.


Objectives: To determine the proportion of patients who are accompanied by another person (ie, partner, child, relative, friend) during visits to their doctors; to describe the demographic characteristics and role(s) assumed by the main accompanying person and the nature of the presenting dyads; and to describe the influence of the main accompanying person on the patient-doctor interaction.

Design: Prospective observational survey.

Setting: Family practices in London, Ont, and surrounding area.

Participants: Eight family physicians completed surveys on 100 consecutive patients attending for both regularly scheduled and emergency visits.

Main outcome measures: Roles and influence of the main accompanying person.

Results: Approximately one third (30.4%) of patients were accompanied during visits to their doctors. Children and patients older than 75 years most frequently had another person with them. Most patients (74.1%) were accompanied by one person who most often was female (72.6%) and between the ages of 21 and 40 years (53.6%). The accompanying person's role was most frequently described by doctors as an advocate for the patient (n = 235, 68.5%). If the accompanying person was a child, however, the role was most often described as a silent observer (n = 36, 68.6%). The influence of the main accompanying person on the patient-doctor encounter was usually described as positive (95.1%).

Conclusions: Physicians report that people accompanying patients usually have a positive influence on medical encounters. Future studies need to include patients' and accompanying persons' perspectives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support*