Medical Consult vs. Medical Clearance

posted by Kathy Everitt on Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Medical consult vs. medical clearance

Medical consult or medical clearance – which are you providing for patients at the request of another provider?

While the terms medical consult and medical clearance are often used interchangeably, it is important to remember that they are not the same, and what you provide can increase the risk of being drawn into a claim.

A medical consult by definition is “a procedure whereby, upon request by one healthcare provider, another healthcare provider reviews a patient's medical history, examines the patient, and makes recommendations as to care and treatment.” 

On the other hand, a medical clearance is defined as an “official authorization for something to proceed or take place.” An example of this is when one healthcare provider requests a clearance (usually a signed form) from another healthcare provider prior to providing treatment or having the patient involved in an activity.

A medical clearance is used to determine whether a proposed treatment or activity could affect the patient’s condition or, conversely, if the patient’s condition could affect a proposed treatment or activity. 

The Problem

The problem at issue is that providing a medical clearance denotes that the patient is free of (all) risks. However, there are always risks involved when treatment is rendered. 

Therefore, a physician who signs off that a patient is cleared to undergo a particular treatment or activity is at risk of being brought into a claim should an unexpected outcome arise – either related or unrelated to which the clearance referred.

Potential Solutions

Collaborative dialogue between providers is paramount for treatment planning and patient care. The more information the doctor requesting the consult has, the better they are able to plan for and mitigate potential complications and determine the recovery period. 

A solution for mitigating exposure when asking for or providing medical information is to request and/or provide a medical consultation or assessment. 

This way, as the physician providing the consultation or assessment, you are confirming the treatment, therapies and findings provided by you to the patient. You are not certifying patients are free of risk. In this case, the ultimate decision to proceed with a treatment or activity in light of the consult or assessment belongs to the patient. 

Blog Author

Kathy Everitt

Senior Risk Management Consultant

Kathy brings with her more than 30 years of professional liabil...

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