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Informal Consultations

One of the banes of physicians is the curbside consult. These are best handled in the same way as a telephone call. A nonpatient who needs care should be referred in a manner appropriate to the urgency of the presenting condition. If the physician consults with a patient, appropriate records should be kept. The critical issue is that exercising independent medical judgment creates an ongoing responsibility to the patient.

With one caveat, informal consultations should be documented in the same manner as telephone calls. When a person telephones a physician, that person has demonstrated a much greater level of concern than someone who just makes conversation with a physician at a party. All telephone calls should be documented, but it is not necessary to record every social conversation that turns to a person's medical condition. The physician should record substantive discussions with existing patients in the patient's medical record and any consultations in which he or she recommended treatment or referred the patient for evaluation of an emergent condition.

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