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 once 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.
Key words. Physicians' practice patterns; physicians, family; patient satisfaction; professional-family relations. (J Fam Pract 1996; 42:572-576)
The specialty of family medicine emphasizes the importance of assessing the patient's health, illness, and disease within the context of family and community. Providing family-oriented primary care is one distinguishing feature of the specialty. Advocates for family-oriented primary care purport that health care is best accomplished through the concurrent care of the patient's family members and the appropriate use of family resources.[1-3] These advocates have influenced the clinical and educational aspects of family practice.[4-9]
A variety of family-oriented interventions are available for use in clinical and educational settings. These include family functioning assessment techniques, family charting systems, family genograms, and family conferences.[6,8,13,14] Furthermore, curricula and other training materials have been developed to teach the application of family systems theory to medical care.[6-9,13,15-23] These clinical interventions and education programs can help physicians develop innovative ways of practicing family-oriented primary care.
Considerable research has shown the degree to which family factors can influence an individual's illness and disease. Research studies[25-27] have assessed various aspects of family-oriented primary care: for example, assessing patient expectations about family physicians caring for the whole family, and patients' perceptions about families obtaining their usual care from a family medicine center or from a private family physician. There is, however, a paucity of primary care research to demonstrate how the patient, family, and physician can work together to improve health outcomes.
With respect to patient expectations of their family physician, one half of all patients in one study felt that a family physician should care for the whole family, whereas 62% of family physicians agreed with this statement. A patient survey conducted in a family medicine training program found that 63% of respondents considered their family medicine...
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