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How to optimize medical teams’ interactions with consultants

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Three researchers writing for NEJM Catalyst look at “The ‘Stranger Effect’ — A Look at the Interactions Between Consultants and Care Teams Through the Lens of Social Science.”’ Among their remarks:

“Due to the dearth of scholarship examining the quality of interactions between medical teams and physician consultants, we don’t know what an ideal collaboration looks like and what situations call for what type of interaction. In some cases, would it be advantageous to limit the contribution of a consulting physician to the performance of well-practiced procedures like intubation or dialysis? In other cases, would the consultant’s distance from the case enable a fresh perspective leading to improved problem solving? Do unrecognized social dynamics sometimes inhibit the consultant from applying other expertise that could significantly improve a patient’s outcomes or better align care with patient desires?”


“How do we prevent miscommunication in scenarios where high-quality care relies on successful interaction between teams and consultants? As a start, we should undertake descriptive studies to identify the factors that influence how teams communicate with consultants and the manner in which consultants end up contributing to cases. Further investigation should then focus on linking medical outcomes with those features of team-consultant interaction that tend to exhibit variation.”

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