10 Tips for Hospitalists to Achieve an Effective Medical Consult

Dennis Chang, MD, FHM; Erin Gabriel, MD


The Hospitalist. 2015;19(8) 

In This Article


A medical consult is an amazing way to learn. Consultation challenges us to practice our best medicine while also exposing us to innovations in other specialties. It can forge new and productive relationships with physicians from all specialties. At its best, it is the purest of medicine or, as some put it, "medicine without the drama."

As hospitalists, we are increasingly asked to be medical consultants and co-managers. Yet most training programs spend very little time educating residents on what makes a high-quality consultation. One of the first articles written on this subject was by Lee Goldman and colleagues in 1983. In this article, Goldman sets out 10 commandments for effective consultation.[1]

Many of the lessons in these 10 commandments continue to ring true today. As primary providers, we know that consulting another service can run the gamut from being pleasant, helpful, and enlightening to being the most frustrating, slam-the-phone-down experience of the day. In this article, we update these commandments to create five golden rules for medical consultations that ensure that your referring providers' experiences are purely positive.

One warning about communication: If you do not agree with the primary team's plan of care, make sure you discuss these concerns instead of just writing them in the chart. Any teaching moments should be reserved for those who are open to that discussion, not forced on providers who are not receptive to it at that time.