These are the thoughts of a cantankerous ol' gynecologist who remembers when things were a little different. I try to find a little humor in my life and the people I meet along the way. Come meet the characters in my world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Calling Your Doctor After-Hours 1

Think Before You Dial

Every doctor makes arrangements for you to call him or her after hours.  If they are not available, there is always someone who is available.  These numbers are supposed to be used for Urgent matters ONLY.  Most of us have a disclaimer that, if you are having an Emergency, you should hang up and call 911.  That means things like: crushing chest pain, cutting your arm off, shot with an arrow… you get the idea.  Do not call your doctor’s office.  Get to the Emergency Department.  They know what to do for that stuff. 

OK, it’s not an Emergency.  Now, is it Urgent?  Or is it something that you should be dealing with during the regular office day? 

 “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”  This means that you need to check your medications BEFORE the weekend.  If your bottle of blood pressure pills only has a couple of pills left in it and has no refills on the front, you better call the office DURING THE DAY.  If you call on the weekend, you will generally get a grumpy doctor.  He or she will call you in enough medication to get through until Monday, when you will have to call your regular doctor.  You will have to pay your co-pay twice, too. 

Your doctor is NOT connected to the appointment book.  S/he cannot discuss your bill.  Generally speaking, your lab results are not available to the doctor.  Your doctor cannot give you advice about a problem that you have not been seen for in the office.  Your doctor will not be able to treat a family member that they have not ever seen.  Most doctors cannot deal with anything wrong with your teeth.  You need to call your dentist.  Honest.  We don’t go to medical school for that. 

When should you call?  If you have had surgery and the doctor has instructed you to call if something happens (like a fever, bleeding, etc.).  Your pediatrician will give you warning signs with newborns and kids.  Listen to them. 

Oh, by the way, more and more doctors are charging for after-hours calls.  So take that charge into your calculations before you call.  The charge can vary from a few dollars to over $100 depending on the length and complexity of the call, the kind of physician you call, and your geographic location.

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