Follow-up or check-up or new consult in a medical clinic

When patients come back to the Medical Clinic after the first consultation, it is either they come back for follow-up or check-up or new consult.

In my medical recording, I usually use the term “check-up” when there is no active medical or surgical condition or urgent medical procedural or test outcome to follow-up.  If there is, then, I use the term “follow-up.”

Examples, one week post-op for removal of stitches and tube drain in patients undergoing a total mastectomy with checking of wound is under a “follow-up” service.  One month after removal of the stitches and tube drain with checking of the wound and operative site is under a “check-up” service.   Patients coming back for result of a biopsy done 3 days ago is under a “follow-up” service.  Cancer patients coming back for recurrence surveillance purpose is under a “check-up” service.

At times, there may be a gray zone between “follow-up” and “check-up” services.  In which case, I place a tag of “follow-up / check-up.”  An example: in observing a medical condition for about a month for diagnostic purpose (follow-up / check-up after one month such as in patients with a high probability of fibrocystic breasts).  Another example: in watchful waiting for a medical condition that has a high probability of spontaneous resolution (follow-up / check-up after  two weeks such as in patients with a diagnosis of reactive hyperplasia of the lymph nodes).

If patients come back to the Medical Clinic after the first consultation complaining of a new medical problem unrelated to the previous ones, then the service is neither follow-up or check-up but a first consult for the new problem.


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