Objectives Patients are often accompanied by family or companions during consultations, but little is known about how this might influence the process. We explored how the presence of a companion in a consultation contributes to communication and the decision-making process.
Design Observational study.
Setting A teaching hospital and a district general hospital in south-west England.
Participants 31 patients and their physicians were observed during consultations in which decisions to undergo palliative chemotherapy were made. Each patient was accompanied by at least one companion.
Outcome measures Communication patterns between physicians, patients and companions.
Results In addition to standard patient/physician interactions, patients and companions were often found to discuss medical information and exchange opinions between themselves without the physician actively participating. We called these instances ‘family time-out’. On the occasion of disagreement between patients and companions about preferred treatment options, physicians and patients were able to agree the decision while acknowledging the differences in opinion.
Conclusions Instances of ‘family time-out’ may contribute to better consultation outcomes because they are understood and supported by the patient's social system. This study highlights the potentially important role of exchanges between patients and companions during consultations and how physicians may benefit from observation of such exchanges. We recommend testing the value of making space for family time-out during consultations. Also, we recommend further study into the medical ethics of family time-out. While the focus here is on palliative chemotherapy, this finding has implications for other consultations, particularly those involving difficult treatment decisions.
- Qualitative Research
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/ and http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.