Friday, September 5, 2014

Curbside Consultation and Hallway Conversations

“Curbside consultation” is an interesting term in medicine.  There has been an increasing interest in this term in the recent medical literature, specifically as it relates to patient care in medicine.  I myself have often pondered how much one learns from curbside consults.  I know that some specialists may frown upon them because of the potential for some to document recommendations in the chart without a “formal” consultation.  As a primary care physician, I enjoy the camaraderie associated with a curbside consult, and in turn, try to help my colleagues out when they ask me a quick question.

The other day, I was on the way from my administrative office to my clinical office where I see patients.  Just outside the parking lot, I saw a colleague I had been meaning to call but just hadn’t gotten around to actually contacting.  In a five-minute conversation, I was able to get so much more helpful information about the topic at hand, and helped my colleague in understanding a concept with which he was not familiar.  For the record, this actual conversation took place on the sidewalk, right next to the curb.  If there was anything that was truly “curbside”, this was it!

I wonder how much one can actually “learn” from a curbside consult?  In my example described above, I can honestly say that the “worth” of that curbside consult is much more than that of a one-hour “lecture” on the same topic by an expert.  I’d be willing to say that my colleague felt the same.

The same concept can be applied to “hallway conversations” at regional and national meetings: the energy disseminated from a brief conversation with a colleague is itself a wonderful opportunity for learning for all (including disseminating to others who may not be a part of the conversation).  So the next question becomes this: “If it is so helpful, how do we value curbside consults/hallway conversations?”  I don’t know the answer, but it is certainly worth exploring.  Yet one more thing ripe for future study!

Special Thanks go to Dr. Peter Schwartz, my colleague referenced above.

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