An exploration of patient and family engagement in routine primary care visits

Jennifer L. Wolff, Marla L. Clayman, Peter Rabins, Mary Ann Cook, Debra L. Roter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Older adults are commonly accompanied to routine medical visits. Whether and how family companion behaviours relate to visit processes is poorly understood. Objective: To examine family companion behaviours in relation to older adults' medical visit processes. Design and participants: Observational study of 78 accompanied primary care patients ages 65 and older. Main outcome measures: Medical visit communication (coded using RIAS), patient verbal activity (as a proportion of visit statements) and visit duration (in min), from audio recordings. Results: Companions' facilitation of patient involvement was associated with greater patient question asking (P = 0.017) and orienting statements, less passive agreement (P = 0.004) and social talk (P = 0.013) and visits that were 3.4 min longer (P = 0.025). Facilitation of patient understanding was associated with less physician question asking (P = 0.004), visits that were 3.0 min longer (P = 0.031), and lower patient verbal activity (30.3% vs. 36.9% of visit statements; P = 0.028). Facilitation of doctor understanding was associated with greater patient biomedical information giving (P = 0.049). Autonomy detracting behaviours were not associated with visit duration but were associated with lower levels of patient verbal activity (36.3% vs. 29.1% of visit statements; P = 0.041). When companions assumed more behaviours, medical visits were incrementally longer (16.1, 19.5, 21.7 min, corresponding to 0-1, 2-4 and 5+ behaviours; P < 0.001 both contrasts), and patients were less verbally active (35.6%, 33.9%, 27.1% of visit statements; P = 0.09 and P = 0.009, respectively). Discussion: Behaviours assumed by patients' companions were associated with visit communication, patient verbal activity and visit duration. Conclusions: Interventions to capitalize on family companions' presence may benefit medical visit processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-198
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Doctor-patient-companion communication
  • Patient-provider communication
  • RIAS
  • Triadic communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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