From a patient safety standpoint, a verbal or electronic exchange between practitioners may lack the patient’s complete clinical picture (which should include a detailed history, an explanation of presenting signs and symptoms, identification of prescription and nonprescription medications, comorbidities, findings on physical examination, and related issues).
By responding without having all the pertinent information, the consulting practitioner may provide advice that is not in the best interests of the patient. It may result in an incorrect diagnosis, the formulation of an incorrect treatment plan, or a delay in ordering and implementing appropriate therapies. If the patient is harmed as a result, the consulting practitioner could be named as a defendant in a claim.
In analyzing closed claims, we have learned that incomplete or poor communication among practitioners is one of the leading causes of bad outcomes. This represents a major risk with informal consultations: Communication of all the necessary information to obtain and provide good clinical advice is critical.