Should a Patient Visit Include Their Companion? Yes — Here’s Why.

Nov 29, 2023 | Professional Development

Get a Closer Look at an Unsung Advocate

Just 37% of older adults bring a companion to doctor appointments, per a 2018-released study in Innovation in Aging. For patient care and retention, however, the companion — a potential key resource and source of support by the patient’s side — plays a more important role than many providers realize.

Learn why companions matter, how to recruit and engage them, and what to do if they’re not present.


The Case for Companions

Whether a spouse, best friend, adult child, or other loved one who knows the patient well and has interacted with them in listening situations, companions benefit the patient and the provider. They’re an extra set of ears at the typical 60- to 90-minute appointment that will likely cover a lot of information.

In addition, companions offer a unique viewpoint on the patient’s hearing. A husband might observe that his wife is frequently turning up the television, whereas the wife doesn’t notice the habit because it’s just part of her routine. That extra perspective can help shed crucial light.

The companion’s presence can also help with:

  • Emotional support — It’s not always easy to acknowledge hearing difficulties or get help. Nearly all hearing loss can be treated, yet less than 1 in 5 who could benefit from hearing aids use them. A companion can provide encouragement and emotional support, reminding the patient they deserve better hearing and an improved quality of life.
  • Balanced perspective — A patient’s self-perception can differ from others’ perspectives, a potential factor when describing listening needs and challenges. The patient’s companion can help them provide a more complete picture of Sound Voids, those moments lacking clarity in hearing or understanding that can affect everyday life.
  • Enhanced understanding — The better-hearing journey involves a lot of new information and potentially unfamiliar technology. During an appointment, the companion can ask questions the patient might not have considered, help with note-taking, and later remind them about follow-up activities related to their hearing care.
  • Deeper awareness — Just as the patient may not realize the extent to which their hearing loss affects others, the companion may not fully realize its impact on the patient. The companion’s presence can increase their own awareness as well as their ability to be the patient’s best advocate during important hearing health care decisions.
  • Technology testing — When exploring new hearing technology, it helps the patient to have a familiar voice in the room. Listening to their companion’s voice while trying out selected hearing aids can help the patient provide valuable feedback to the hearing care professional who’s adjusting the devices.

Audigy data shows a positive correlation between a companion’s presence and the patient’s willingness to move forward with treatment and pursue technology. Estimates include a 10% to 20% increase in patient acceptance of treatment with the companion’s participation in the appointment process.


Recruiting and Engaging Companions

How can you ensure a companion’s presence at the appointment and effectively engage them? Make it routine, and treat them like family.

Some staff may feel hesitant to broach the subject with a patient — Will they feel offended? What if they don’t have anyone? — but normalizing it in the appointment-setting process, communicating compassionately, and focusing on the benefits of companions open doors.

It all starts with appropriate framing, explaining the why and helping cast the concept as a benefit rather than an intrusion. For example, a front-office team member during a patient phone call might say:

“Dr. Hamblin recommends that you have a companion present at your appointment. You’re going to be in the office for about 90 minutes, and we’re going to cover a lot of information. So having an extra set of ears can be incredibly helpful. Who will you be bringing with you next Tuesday?”

Once the patient and companion are secured in the appointment process, it’s all about maximizing the interaction and ultimately moving the patient forward in better hearing. This includes addressing the companion during the visit by:

  • Introducing yourself to them.
  • Emphasizing how important they are and thanking them for attending the appointment
  • Seating them at the provider desk with the patient rather than off in a corner
  • Integrating their perspective through Audigy’s companion questionnaire

Consider having the companion provide the completed questionnaire in advance, allowing the provider to refer to it as needed when hearing the patient’s perspective on the various ways Sound Voids affect them at work, home, and play.


CompanionsOvercoming the Missing Companion

Appointments won’t always include a companion. But all isn’t lost. In the companion’s absence, you can still successfully leverage the concept, yielding benefits for the provider and patient:


  • If you already know the companion can’t attend, mail the questionnaire in advance, and ask the patient to bring the completed document to the appointment.
  • During the appointment, ask your patient what the companion would think — how their wife would respond, what their son would say, or what their partner would most want for them
  • If the patient hesitates to move forward on solutions, ask them what the companion would suggest. Providers have often reported responses like, “Well, [XXXX] is actually the one who made me book this appointment today” or “[XXXX] has been asking me to do something about it for the past six months, so they’d probably just tell me to go for it.”
  • Use the Acknowledge, Motivate, Ask method, validating concerns with statements such as “I completely understand wanting to talk this over. Of course you want to make this a shared decision. Let’s set up a time later this week when you can both come in, and we can go through any questions or concerns you have. I have appointments open Thursday or Friday. Which works better for you?”
  • Ask the patient to call their companion — or set up a video chat — so they can help the patient make the decision right then rather than push the appointment out. Try to get them on the phone, or work to book a return visit before the patient leaves.
  • Ask the patient what questions their companion would have if they were present. This helps educate the patient on how to have that conversation with the companion. You can then tailor your answers to those questions, helping the patient raise that discussion with the companion after leaving the office.

Can’t get the companion on the phone, or the patient leaves without scheduling the next-step appointment? Nothing beats a personal follow-up. Call the patient directly. It makes a big impact when the person who actually saw them in the consultation, sat through the conversation, and truly understands their objection is the one to make the phone call and check in on their specific concerns.

Making the most of caring companions, an important part of improving patient hearing health, can go a long way in reaching more people and changing more lives for the better.

Did you know? Companion engagement is just one component of Audigy’s proven Patients for Life® program. Learn more about building patient loyalty and growing an exceptional practice now.