Should doctors give their cellphone numbers to their patients?

in Gadgets/Medicine/Physician by

In the few years I have been into practice, giving mobile contact number to a certain set of patients improved doctor-patient interactions and reduced overheads in the clinic.  In several provinces here in the Philippines where landlines are nonexistent,  the advent of mobile phones and SMS technologies provided easier and faster communication between physicians and their patients. Those that live in places away from their physician’s clinic reported a reduction in their  unnecessary clinic visits and ER consults. The perceived overall health care cost reduction (especially with the SMS technology ) is felt not only by patients but also by physicians who find it easier to decongest their very busy clinic schedules.

On the other hand, some doctors has had a bad experience after giving their mobile number to some patients. Abuse of this privilege is related to the patients’ proper education on its use and limitations. Some patients avoid regular clinic visits and rely only on the mobile phone calls or sms messages to communicate with their physicians. Some patients even “shortcuts” and seek immediate attention even if their cases seem to be less emergent than other patients who are physically present in the clinic. The most common complaint among physicians is the total disregard of some patients for the doctor’s private life. It’s not uncommon for physicians to receive non emergent calls or sms messages even on unholy hours.

A reduction in clinic visits (as a result of this mobile phone communication between physicians and patients) necessarily reflect a reduced clinic income if you are based on a service for fee system . Nobody (not even insurance companies) pays the doctor for any of the phone consults that patients incur. It’s all for the sake of better patient management and reduction of health care cost.

But education is very crucial in engaging patients into this type of doctor-patient interaction. Reciprocating respect for the doctor’s or the patient personal private life is of paramount importance in such mode of communication. Put into proper use,  giving  your mobile contact number to patients  reduce the over all health care cost. It’s misuse however,  could end up a fruitful patient-doctor relationship.

So, should  you give your mobile numbers to your patients?Why or why not? Or if you are a patient, would you want your physician ‘s mobile number?Leave your comments here.

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).