Why (we) Doctors don’t usually give out personal phone numbers: The dangers of mobile consulting

Olongapo City – Personal experience has taught me that giving out your personal numbers to patients is really a bit of a nuisance. Patients will try to seek consult for free by texting/emailing you and refusing to be seen at the clinic for further work-up. Other patients will text/email you symptoms that a companion has so that they too can sort of get a free consult. Most of the time, they get angered when I do not give them that priviledge especially when they text me at 3 in the morning. This is not because I want to charge a Professional Fee. Trust me, I usually give out clinic consults for free. I don’t give out consults online or via mobile because it’s dangerous.

Few months ago, an OB-GYNE was enjoying a meal with friends. She got a text from an unregistered number. The sender identified herself as her patient and that she is experiencing abdominal pain. The doctor is nowhere near her clinic and has (of course) no copy of the patient’s medical records nor any way to access it. She texted back instead, “TAKE BUSCOPAN 10mg/tab 3x a day.” She did as the doctor ordered. After 2 months, the OB-GYNE received a subpoena.

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The sender happens to be pregnant at the time and she was experiencing premature labor. Hyoscine (Buscopan) hastened the process and she delivered a premature baby, who died a few minutes later. She consulted another doctor (not me, promise!) who told a lot of things to incriminate the OB-GYNE. The court case is still ongoing.

Mobile consults are not something you will see in the future. It is happening now. For mobile consults to happen, a system must be set in place to prevent incidences like this. Higher charges should be imposed on mobile consults because the risks for malpractice are greater.

For now, I do give out my personal cellphone number but I do not give out consults via text or online methods. I simply request my patients to see me at the clinic or if the case is urgent, be seen at the emergency room. It is important to me that I see the patient personally before I prescribe a medication. The patient may be an old friend but every new symptom must be treated with a fresh eye. Complacency can kill patients.

If you are a patient (whether mine or somebody else’s), please bear in mind that we have every duty to put you first but you must understand that we need to see you, feel you, and hear you. We do not care about financial compensation. We do care about your safety. Please refrain from asking what is the best medicine for a certain ailment. We can answer you, but the answer may not be the best medication for you.

The art of medicine is the art of when to give and when not to give a certain medication.



7 thoughts on “Why (we) Doctors don’t usually give out personal phone numbers: The dangers of mobile consulting

  1. I am an OB-Gyne and I give my number to my patients but I always emphasize that I don’t allow consultations over the phone. They can call me in the wee hours of the morning as long as it is an emergency.

  2. THis is not about the doctors giving out their cellphone numbers but the doctor who prescribed medicine without knowing the patient’s condition.

    • Exactly. Giving out your personal number invites consult via text/ SMS messages. The danger is in the assumption that it’s alright to have a virtual patient-physician relationship rather than a physical one. In today’s world of automation, we think that someday doctors will be replaced by programs where you just text your symptoms and expect an answer. What is important is the intuition that is presented to you brought about by a real visit to your doctor (Hence, the moral of my story)

      • And the problem is that, like you said, you know what to give under the assumption of what they are telling, but we don’t know the whole diagnosis. This can happen even as simply giving Paracetamol or some basic medication as it can illicit allergic reactions.

  3. Pingback: #HealthXPh: Use of SMS between Health Care Providers and Patients | The Endocrine Witch

  4. Pingback: Use of SMS between Health Care Providers and Patients - HealthXPh

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