To document the practice parameters and case characteristics associated with personal (expert) consultations. We also examine the value, level of participant (customer) satisfaction, turnaround time, and rate of personal consultations.
We asked participants in the College of American Pathologists' Q-Probes program to document cases sent for consultation during 4 months or up to 20 cases. They documented patient and specimen characteristics, the turnaround times, and the participants' levels of satisfaction with the consultation experience.
One hundred eighty laboratories/surgical pathology practices. One hundred seventy-two (95.6%) were from the United States; the remainder were located in Canada and Australia.
Rate and turnaround time of consultations and participant level of satisfaction.
A total of 2746 consultation cases were examined for an aggregate consultation rate of 0.5% (median, 0.7%). Institutions with a higher occupied bed size and a greater number of surgical pathology cases both had lower consultation rates (P < or =.05). The median turnaround time (defined as the interval from the date on which the case was sent to the date on which the diagnosis was received) was 6 days. Twenty-nine percent and 68% of cases had a turnaround time within 3 and 7 days, respectively. Fifty-two percent of cases were sent to nationally known experts, and 32% were sent to local experts. Skin (18.0%), hematolymphoid (11.6%), and breast (9.6%) specimens were most commonly sent for consultation. In 70.5% of cases, the consultant confirmed the referring pathologist's original diagnosis, but in 15.9% of cases, the consultant also added significant information. Satisfaction rates were higher with faster turnaround times and verbal reporting. Satisfaction rates were lower for cases in which the patient or the clinician requested the consultation and in which the consultant's diagnosis was ambiguous.
This study establishes a multi-institutional consultation rate of 0.5%, defines the nature of surgical pathology consultations, and demonstrates that satisfaction with consultations is associated with a faster turnaround time and receipt of additional, clinically meaningful information.