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Patient Educ Couns. 2006 Apr;61(1):80-6. Epub 2005 Oct 19.

Patients' perceptions of visit companions' helpfulness during Japanese geriatric medical visits.

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Department of Hygiene & Public Health, Teikyo University School of Medicine, 2-11-1 Kaga, Itabashi, Tokyo 173-8605, Japan.



Elderly patients are often accompanied during medical visits by a companion, usually a family member. This study explores the association between patients' expectations regarding the communication role of their companions, and the role intended and taken by companions during the medical visits, on patient perceptions of companion helpfulness.


Participants included 63 patients aged 65 or over who were under continuous care of nine attending physicians at a university-affiliated geriatric clinic in Tokyo, and their companions during the medical visit. These medical visits were audiotape recorded and coded using a Japanese translation of the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS).


The discrepancy between what patients expected of their companions, and what companions intended and actually did during the visit, predicted patient ratings of companion helpfulness. It was especially noteworthy that the highest ratings of companion helpfulness occurred when patients expected their companion to be actively involved in communication and they were. However, if the patient anticipated only a limited companion role, the companion was not viewed as very helpful regardless of the role they played.


There would be a largely unexploited potential for improving communication effectiveness through the optimal engagement of companions in visit communication.

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