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.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Telephone Diagnosis

Why Your Doctor Needs to See You
There are many times when patients call the doctor’s office about a problem that they want to have treated over the phone.  This leaves the office “in a pickle” for several reasons. 
If this is a new problem, we have no idea whether or not your diagnosis is correct.  I have had patients call with “a yeast infection”.  When I start questioning them, the symptoms are indeed “down there”, but do not sound like yeast.  When they come in for an exam, they may have a bacterial infection, a bladder infection, herpes, a sexually transmitted disease, a chemical reaction or a number of other things. 
If I treated the “yeast” over the phone, the patient would not get better, she would waste her money, and she would be miserable for a longer period of time.  Besides, she can give some of those things to people that she is very close to.  Nope, better to have her come to the office. 
What about a patient who calls and says “my asthma is acting up and I need my inhaler called in”?  Is it asthma, pneumonia or even heart failure?  Sir, can you put the phone next to your lungs and breathe deeply?  Yeah, right.  Better come in so your doctor can listen to your heart and lungs, check for swelling, check if you have oxygen in your tissues and all that stuff that internists do. 
We are all concerned about the cost of medical care.  Most doctors work hard at keeping costs down.  We are aware of the costs of testing, medications and hospitalizations.  However, if you catch something early, you can avoid significant expense later.  I even keep the local pharmacy $4 and $5 medication lists on my desk so I can pick the least expensive medications that will work for your problem.
A doctor’s office visit with EKG, Chest X ray and some lab work is cheaper than a week or two on a ventilator in the ICU for severe pneumonia, right?  Treating that infection with the right medication the first time saves time and discomfort over multiple treatments with the wrong medication.  It also prevents possible spread.
I don’t want my patients to get sicker because I missed something by treating a diagnosis made over the phone.  Medical care is available 24 hours a day somewhere if you really need it.  Don’t take the risk of a wrong self diagnosis.  See a doctor.  We went to school for that.

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