Visit Companions Improve Satisfaction with Care

Accompanying older patients and active engagement of visit companions improves satisfaction with physician care

WEDNESDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- Visit companions are actively engaged in the care of older patients and influence patient satisfaction with physician care, according to an article published in the July 14 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Jennifer L. Wolff, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and a colleague examined a sample of 12,018 community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries from the 2004 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to determine if beneficiaries' self-reported satisfaction with their physician was associated with the presence of a visit companion.

Visit companions were present at 38.6 percent of routine medical visits and accompanied patients were older, less educated and in worse health than unaccompanied patients, the researchers report. Visit companions recorded physician instructions (44.1 percent), provided historical information (41.6 percent), asked questions (41.1 percent) or explained physicians' instructions (29.7 percent), the report indicates. Visit companions also improved patients' satisfaction with the physicians' technical skills (odds ratio, 1.15), information giving (OR, 1.19) and interpersonal skills (OR, 1.18) compared to unaccompanied patients. When visit companions were more actively engaged in communication, the patient rated physician information giving (OR, 1.42) and interpersonal skills (OR, 1.29) significantly better. Visit companions were most beneficial for those with the worst self-rated health, the authors note.

"For physicians, these data highlight the potential value of visit companions to assist them in meeting the informational and interpersonal needs of their most vulnerable older patients," the authors conclude. "In light of widespread fragmentation and quality deficiencies in health care, much may be gained from more explicitly recognizing and better integrating family visit companions as contributing members of older adults' health care team."

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