Background: Experience from 10 telephone consultation courses in 1995, arranged for the emergency service in Copenhagen County, has demonstrated that this type of communication requires specific skills on the doctor's part, especially because the doctor cannot see the patient, patients are frequently in some sort of 'crisis' and, on the basis of limited information, the doctor in charge has to arrive at a prompt diagnosis in order to advise or refer the patient.
Methods: Using video-supervised role-play we compiled and organized the experience of 152 doctors. During the courses we developed principles to help doctors to optimize the information output and reliability of their telephone consultations. The doctors playing their 'patients" role had the opportunity to experience the situation from the patient's point of view and were later able to give the 'doctor' valuable feed-back.
Results and conclusions: This 'experimental consultation procedure' constitutes a new research method, at the interface between educational and traditional scientific research. The process in question is a feed-back one, in which findings can be applied and tested instantly, or with little delay, to produce new results. These can be put to use in practical clinical work and tested in new 'laboratory experiments'.