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Clin Infect Dis. 1996 Feb;22(2):303-7.

A prospective study of 2,092 "curbside" questions asked of two infectious disease consultants in private practice in the midwest.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, St. John's Mercy Medical Center, St. Louis, Missouri 63141, USA.


We prospectively studied 2,092 consecutive informal (or "curbside") consultations (CCs) posed of two infectious disease (ID) consultants in private practice in different cities. The frequency of CCs was similar for the two physicians: 31 and 30 per month. The majority of CCs (69%) were initiated by staff physicians, of whom 47% were engaged in primary care. The average duration of CCs was 5.1 minutes overall and increased significantly from 3 minutes in 1990 to 7 minutes in 1994 for one consultant (P < .0001). Overall, 52% of questions asked by staff physicians were considered inappropriate (on the basis of their complexity); this rate increased from 40% in 1990 to 53% in 1994 for one physician (P = .005). Although a variety of subject matters were represented, questions concerning treatment of specific infections were the most common. We conclude that the demand for community-based ID physicians' informal advice remains significant. Any need-assessment for the practice of these specialists in the community should take into account their often unrecognized direct and indirect contribution to the care of many patients they never formally see.

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