Informal medical consultations, also referred to as curbside consults, are way too common. These are situations where patients solicit for medical advice from healthcare workers opportunistically and informally. Curbside consults are fraught with serious limitations, and should always be considered as a chitchat rather than formal medical advice.
Individuals clamouring for curbside consults are usually looking for information, advice on specific conditions or a second opinion. Either way, a curbside encounter must be regarded as cursory, as it happens outside of a formal medical setting.
This in itself negates duty of care and liability to the one giving advice, unless the encounter is extended to a formal medical assessment.
Seeking information about medical issues is encouraged. It paves the way for healthier lifestyles and choices. Go ahead and ask about where to seek specific services, which hospitals to visit, or which specialist to see for a specific condition. But you must always know when to stop pursuing a curbside medical chat.
Any curbside consults, especially with lingering symptoms, should ideally be followed up with a formal medical review. You may have been advised on temporary remedies, but these should not replace a visit to your regular physician. A more formal consultation in your doctor’s office will most likely deal with the root cause of your ailment.
Other associated conditions that you were unaware of may also be detected and dealt with. The opportunity to catch up with recommended screening tests and appropriate health advice also arises. You end up with a comprehensive assessment, rather than the lopsided nature of curbside consults.
You should desist from informal consults for serious and potentially life-threatening conditions. Serious conditions span from rapidly deteriorating illnesses, to clinical situations that warrant thorough medical review prior to decision making.
Curbside consults will not have the full benefits of a focused medical evaluation. It doesn’t matter the skill of whoever you are “curbsiding” with, serious medical conditions always warrant a formal review in an appropriate setting.
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The dangers of curbside consults are multiple. And doctors are increasingly wary of giving informal advice that may not be comprehensive. Limit informal consults to minor and inconsequential health issues.
Making critical health-related decisions solely on the basis of a curbside consult can prove disastrous. Time and money spent on formal consultations pays dividends for your health in the longrun.
Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.