“Are you otherwise fit and well?”: past medical history questions in UK paediatric consultations
Accurate diagnosis and treatment depend upon detailed knowledge of both the child’s presenting symptoms and their past medical history. However, the process of soliciting past medical history has never been subject to systematic scrutiny in actual clinical practice.
Objective: To examine the function of the question “are you otherwise fit and well?” to elicit a child’s general medical history in UK paediatric allergy outpatient consultations.
Methods: Examination of 30 video-recorded UK paediatric outpatient consultations involving children (2–10 years), caregivers, and one doctor. We identified, transcribed, and interrogated 13 examples, deploying the systematic and rigorous method of conversation analysis to elucidate the question’s micro-design elements and their consequences for the consultation’s trajectory.
Results: Asking “Are you otherwise fit and well?” is built to efficiently solicit a problem-free report of good health. Nonetheless patients can and do raise other relevant matters. In practice, the question initiates several interactional matters simultaneously: establishing/resolving (mis)understandings of “fitness” and “wellness”; negotiating opportunities for children’s participation; and importantly, a shift towards discussing more general wellbeing.
Conclusion: Past medical history questions unavoidably generate broader interactional matters which are skilfully resolved in real-time between clinicians, caregivers, and children.
Practice implications: Clinical training could be greatly enhanced by integrating insights into the interactional consequences of asking questions, particularly in the complex multiparty environment of paediatrics. While the question ‘Are you otherwise fit and well’ clearly serves an important function, clinicians should be alert to the possible problems it might raise, especially when directed towards younger children.
Economic and Social Research Council (grant number: ES/F020864/1, 2007)
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy
Published inPatient Education and Counseling
- VoR (Version of Record)
Rights holder© The Author(s)
Publisher statementThis is an Open Access Article. It is published by Elsevier under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY). Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/