Requesting Blood Tests: The Right Way and the Wrong Way
Attention Partialists*; listen up!
Despite what you were taught in training, patients have more than just one organ. Yes, yes; I know your organ is of course the most interesting and important. Still, there is more to most patients than an eye, a heart, a pair of lungs or kidneys, or even a prostate.
Most of you have learned that there are times when findings in your organ implies that something may be wrong with one or more of the patient's other organs. Although your usual response is simply to shuffle the patient off to your buddy, the OtherOrgan specialist, there have been occasions out in the community when, your hands tied, you send them back to me instead. As a public service, I would like to take this opportunity to describe the right way to do this, as well as the wrong way.
Pick up the phone and say:
Dr. Dino, I saw this weird ditzeloma in the back of our mutual patient's eye. It can sometimes be associated with diabetes, so could you please take a look and see if that might be the case here?
Send me a fax on a safely prescription pad (which comes across the fax as almost completely black) saying:
Complete blood test to rule out metabolic diseases.I'll give you a hint: "Rule out [a whole freaking class of conditions]" is not an appropriate way to format a request for either a blood test, or a consultation to evaluate for the condition about which you are concerned -- which is what this patient really needs.
Oh, and while we're at it, could you please refrain from recommending that my patient with no cardiac risk factors ought to be on a cholesterol medicine for a total cholesterol of 255, when I have already determined that her LDL is only 120, her triglycerides only 125, but her HDL is a whopping 110, and I have told her she is fine? Remember you're a surgeon; it's not like you're a doctor anymore. M'kay?
*A fabulous term from one of the AAFP ListServes referring to our colleagues who only take care of portions of patients.