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HHS HealthBeat (March 23, 2012)

Seeing the doctor together

A husband and his wife listen to their doctor.
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From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, I’m Ira Dreyfuss with HHS HealthBeat.

Older people often don’t visit the doctor alone. Someone comes with them – almost always a family member – to help the patient understand the medical issues and keep track of the doctor’s recommendations.

At the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Jennifer Wolff looked in national survey data about Medicare beneficiaries to learn who goes with the patient and what they do:

“Our study suggests that family companions are involved in information exchange, which is really sort of the crux of the medical visit.” (7 seconds)

Wolff advises family members to help coach older patients, before the visit, about what their goals are for the visit, and the role that the patient wants the family member to play.

The study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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HHS HealthBeat is a production of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m Ira Dreyfuss.

Last revised: March 23, 2012