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Online Commentary in Primary Care and Emergency Room Settings

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This paper describes a communication practice called "online commentary" that is in widespread use in primary care in the USA. Online commentary is talk by a clinician that describes what he or she is finding in the course of the physical examination of the patient. The paper reviews the primary features of online commentary, with a special focus on its role in forecasting the likely results of the physical examination during the examination itself. It also describes patient outcomes that are associated with this use. It then uses data from an emergency room in the western USA to extend the notion of online commentary from primary care to the emergency setting. It proposes that online commentary facilitates effective teamwork by forecasting next actions, allowing members of the emergency team to anticipate probable next steps in the investigation and treatment of patient injuries.

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