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.