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J Emerg Med. 2012 Jun;42(6):704-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2011.01.025. Epub 2011 May 26.

Consultation in the emergency department: a qualitative analysis and review.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Illinois of Illinois-Chicago, Jesse Brown VA Hospital, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.



No studies have evaluated the consultation process or attempted to define a standardized approach that could improve communication and patient outcomes.


To perform a qualitative analysis of emergency medicine (EM) consultation to reveal its complexity and elucidate strategies and frameworks for physician-to-physician communication.


Data were collected in three phases: informal interviews conducted in an emergency department (ED), 10-question surveys given to a subset of EM and specialty physicians, and semi-structured 1-h group interviews using open-ended questions to further explore issues and trends elicited from the survey responses. In addition, we conducted an extensive literature search focused on health care and business consultation and communication.


Seventy-six percent (29 of 38) of emergency and specialty physicians completed the 10-question survey in its entirety. Three themes were identified from the survey responses: organizational skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and medical knowledge. Of 95 total comments, 41 (43%) focused on organizational skills, 26 (27%) on interpersonal and communication skills, and 28 (30%) on medical knowledge. There were 29 comments regarding poor consultations: 15 issues with organization, 6 with interpersonal and communication skills, and 8 with medical knowledge. The literature search revealed several models and types of consultation, but no standard algorithm currently exists.


We recommend focusing on organizational skills, interpersonal and communication skills, and medical knowledge when teaching ED consultation and present a conceptual framework of the Five Cs Consultation Model: contact, communication, core question, collaboration, and closing the loop.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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