Telephone consultation skills

Doctor on phone writing into notebook

A Doctor involved in OOH care may exclusively or mainly deal with patients via the telephone. Different skills are required for this task as there is no direct patient contact, body language is lost and the Doctor will not usually know the patient. Educational events dealing with telephone triage are usually available however the analysis of your telephone skills may be appropriate. It is suggested that you record 10 consecutive telephone consultations and analyse them in the template document below. It is probably best to do this on a recording of the consultation rather than “live”.

Telephone Consultations Template

Reflections on results/exercise

Do I need to do anything different/learning needs identified?

Telephone Consultations Template Example

Reflections on results/exercise

This was a valuable exercise for me and it is the first time I have listened to myself consulting by phone. The first thing that struck me was how difficult it was to judge how I was feeling at the time, the lack of visual input made it difficult for me to judge how appropriately and indeed how seriously I was taking the patients concerns. I have watched video of myself consulting and then because of body language you can get a better idea. The patients must therefore be in a very difficult situation.

I was surprised that I did not introduce myself to everyone (something I thought I did every time). I was happy that I had elicited sufficient information each time to formulate a diagnosis and/or plan and that I had acted appropriately. There were a few consultations that I was obviously a bit short with the patients; this also seemed to be picked up by the patients. This shortness may be appropriate sometimes but it is clear from the recordings that the patients were genuinely worried regarding their problems.

Overall I seemed to be able to come to a negotiated settlement and resolution with the patients although the patient with the abdominal pain and the one with the back pain expected more than I could or would do for them.

Do I need to do anything different/learning needs identified?

Firstly the difficulty in gauging the mood of the “doctor” – yes me! The lack of visual stimuli was a problem even though I had performed the consultation. I will in future be more aware of this difficulty and try to introduce more verbal cues “mms, ums and yeas”.

Secondly many of the consultations were shorter than I imagined at the time, I displayed a tendency to dominate the closing section – I used the phrase “that’s OK then Yes?” four times and concluded the consultation in that fashion.

Overall I am happy with these ten consultations, there is some room for improvement and I will repeat the exercise in one year’s time.



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