April 28, 2013

A few weeks ago, this piece was in the NY Times about emergency care and doctors being available 24/7. It seemed to spur a lot comments from the healthcare community – specifically about doctors giving out personal contact information.

I’ll admit I have this fear of going to an emergency department because I know it’d be ridiculously expensive. I also know, in most emergency rooms, if it’s not a real emergency (ie, I’m having trouble breathing or chest pains or something like that) – I’m most likely going to be sitting in the waiting room, which isn’t all that different from me sitting at home. Also, I don’t see the point of going to see someone about generic symptoms (headache, stomach ache, vomiting, dizziness) unless it persists for days.

However, being someone who doesn’t get sick very often, much less emergency sick, I really have very little knowledge about what to do when I do run into an issue. The emergency room is one place that I know is open, has doctors, and most likely will take my insurance. It requires not too much thought or research and it’s always an option. But wouldn’t it be great if people were more aware of urgent care centers and nurse hotlines? Seriously, nurse hotlines are the best thing. They’re very helpful in trying to determine if you actually have an emergency or if you can wait until Monday to see a doctor.

But let’s get back to having personal contact information for doctors. It’s a very split opinion. Would I love this as a patient? Yes. If I emailed or texted my doctor would I expect a response within at least a few hours? Yes. Do I recognize that it’s totally unreasonable to expect my doctor to be on-call all the time? Yes. Doctors deserve time off just like everyone else. And I know I don’t want to be checking my work email on the weekends. Another a major concern for doctors seems to be the liability that could go along with this kind of communication. What if they don’t get the message in a timely matter? What if something is difficult to communicate through email? It’s one of those things that as a patient and not a physician, I’m probably just really biased about how great this would be. I’ll just stick to not getting sick on weekends.



  1. I’ve only been to the emergency room once. It was my first eye infection, and I was freaking out because everything was blurry in that eye. So my mom took me there.

    By the time we saw the doctor, it had pretty much cleared itself up, and she couldn’t find anything. Rather embarrassing in hindsight.

    • Same thing happened to my brother. He’s allergic to peanuts and once his face swelled up, so my mom insisted he got to the ER. Of course, the first question they asked was if he was having trouble breathing; he said no, and so they basically waited and then the swelling went down. I can see it being less embarrassing when it’s the first time you’ve had a problem. It’s a lot harder to tell what’s going on then.

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