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Friday, April 20, 2012

I hate the phone


I hate the phone.  There I said it.

Have you ever noticed that everyone has a cell phone yet no one answers theirs?  There are a myriad of reasons why people don’t answer their cell phones; they don’t hear the ringer, they are on another call, the phone is in a no service area, they are busy with something else, etc.  I don’t answer my phone either.

People no longer even answer their home phones.  My own family never answers the phone.  The running joke in my house: if I ever find my self in jail and I get my one phone call, I’d better not waste it on calling my house.  The phone, which once was the most efficient means of communication ever, is now among the worst.

As a doctor I find this very annoying n many levels.  Patients have a right to get their test results in a timely fashion.   I have an obligation return patient calls and to contact them with test results.  It is more than that, however.  I have a desire to be able to connect with my patients.  The phone unfortunately no longer serves this need.  
Typically, here is how most doctor/office—patient calls go these days:

·      Patient calls for doctor—doctor is with patients—take message
·      Doctor call back patient—voice mail
·      Patient calls back—doctor unable to come to phone
·      Doctor calls back again—voice mail

And on and on it goes until either the call gets through or both parties give up.

Is there a better way?  Yes, for everyone else.
But not for doctors.

Why?  Because email is not HIPAA compliant. 

Yet email is the best means of communication ever developed and would serve both doctors and patients needs simultaneously with efficiency, thoroughness, and elegance. 

But email is not legal.  But secure messaging is.  Fortunately we live in America, the land of entrepreneurship and companies have moved in to fill the void and meet the need.   I have been using one such company, which is still in Beta, and have already dramatically reduced the phone call nightmare cycle.   I am happy.  Patients are happy.  And I can even return calls when needed with more ease because the sheer number of calls and call-backs are so dramatically reduced.

Embrace it.