Definition and Overview
Also referred to as a medical consultation, a general consultation is a meeting between a physician and a patient. Common goals include taking preventive measures to halt the development of various diseases particularly for patients who have risk factors, obtain a diagnosis for symptoms being experienced by the patient, or in the case of an annual checkup, to reassess the patient's risk of various medical conditions.
A patient may see different types of physicians all throughout his life, as he grows older or as certain conditions are being identified. For example, children and young adults are often seen by pediatricians. By the time they reach adulthood, doctors known as internists take over. Internists, on the other hand, can subspecialize in a variety of fields including but not limited to orthopedics (joints and bones), cardiology (heart), neurology (nervous system), and enterology (intestinal tract). Seniors are handled by those who specialize in geriatrics.
Although a general consultation is often sought for medical issues that affect the body, it also deals with the patient's mental health. A meeting with a psychologist and/or psychiatrist is also considered a general consultation.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
There are many reasons why a patient should undergo a general consultation. These include:
Maintenance of a person’s overall well-being – It is especially important that a person enjoys the quality of life regardless of his age and whether he has underlying conditions. A general consultation allows a team of doctors to track the progress of his condition, manage disease or disability, prevent future or potential health issues, improve life and movement, and extend life as much as possible.
Requirement – Some people, such as company employees, are mandated by rules to see a doctor for a general consultation at least once a year. The results of the exam are then forwarded to the company for storage and monitoring. Many organizations today are using the medical information to create more suitable lifestyle, wellness, or health programs for their employees. A person may also be requested by a private insurance company to undergo a medical exam and consultation to help them correctly determine the best value for insurance and premium.
Meeting the needs of a personp – The medical needs of a person can vary in different phases of his life. When he is young, the challenge is to continue to boost his immune system and identify health issues that can later impact his life. For example, latest studies show that children who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes earlier than those of the normal weight. When he reaches adolescence, physiological changes such as hair growth, hormones, and mental health issues are being tackled.
Early detection – Although prevention is always better than cure, early detection gives any person a fighting chance even against dreaded diseases like cancer. A regular skin consultation, for instance, can help a dermatologist monitor new growths or changes to the skin such as transformations of moles or presence of lesions.
Recommendation or referral – A medical consultation may also be carried out because of a referral. This means that the primary doctor endorses the patient to another specialist, usually because his scope of training, experience, and expertise is inadequate to meet the needs of the patient based on the initial diagnosis or results of tests.
It is expected that with the general consultation:
Patients will be able to establish a close relationship with a core team of health specialists who can help them meet their medical needs in the present or future.
- Early detection can increase the likelihood of survival and allows medical professionals to easily manage both acute and chronic disease.
- Doctors will be able to impart preventive measures and other programs that can encourage a more proactive approach to the prevention, treatment, and management of diseases.
How Does the Procedure Work?
There are two ways on how patients can initiate a general consultation: they are either recommended by their primary doctor, or they personally approach a specialist. If it is the former, the primary doctor is responsible for forwarding any existing medical record of the patient to the specialist. This is important so the patient does not have to go through the same physical exams and answer the same questions during the medical interview.
If it is the latter, the patient sets up an appointment with a clinic or hospital where the doctor is working. An ideal schedule is then provided.
During the consultation, the doctor conducts a thorough medical review by asking questions. The questions may cover symptoms, general condition or feeling of the patient, any health concerns, and the results of previous medical tests.
The doctor then performs a physical exam. The body parts that will be checked will depend on the objective of the consultation. For example, a woman who consults a gynecologist may undergo breast exam or pap smear.
If necessary, the doctor would then recommend more tests, which may include imaging scans such as MRI, PET, or CT scan. The results of these exams will be discussed in the next consultation.
It is normal for a patient to see the same doctor many times due to follow-ups.
A consultation may take at least 30 minutes and often does not require any special preparation.
Possible Risks and Complications
More than anything, a general medical consultation is about building and fostering a relationship between the doctor and patient. It is essential that patients feel comfortable dealing with their doctors so they will be more likely to follow treatment, follow on their succeeding consultations, and become more open. Sadly, like any relationship, a general consultation may become an unpleasant experience particularly for the patient. When this happens, the patient may be forced to look for another specialist. Such a process can be time-consuming and frustrating and may result in the patient not seeking consultation, which could be dangerous to his health and well-being.
- American Academy of Family Physicians