When the Office Visit is a Family Matter

American Medical News reports that one-third of physician visits include at least one family member in the exam room. Even as the push toward the patient-centered medical home stresses the invaluable role that families can play in improving compliance and health outcomes, the presence of a relative raises a host of complicated issues for physicians to navigate. “Now you’ve got potentially two patients in the room,” says Jason Karlawish, MD, professor of Medicine and Medical Ethics. “You even have a kind of third patient, which is the relationship between the family member and the patient. If you ignore that, you ignore it at your own peril.” One step to making the interaction with patients’ relatives a positive one is to assess why they came along, says Dr. Karlawish, a geriatrician. “Ask questions,” he says. “Just as you ask the patient for their chief complaint, you can turn to the family member and say, ‘And you, is there anything in particular that you wanted to bring up?’

American Medical News article

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