Chapter 16: How to Use the Telephone Wisely
The person most often late for a doctors appointment is the doctor himself...
- Keep a pen and paper ready so that you can write down the relevant instructions.
- Make sure all your medical records are at hand, so that you can answer questions about your medical problem intelligently and accurately.
- Identify yourself properly, giving your full name as well as your diagnosis ( try not to tax your doctors memory!).
- Ask if you can take a few minutes of the doctors time now, or whether you should call back again - this is common courtesy!
- Report specific symptoms. For example, rather than just saying, I dont feel well, or Ive got the flu, which can be interpreted in different ways, be prepared to describe your symptoms precisely; for instance, fever, sore throat, cough, and/or bodyache. Similarly, instead of just saying, my baby has a fever, specify the exact temperature and the duration of the fever as well as other signs or symptoms.
- When you dont know what you need (for example, you may not be sure how serious the illness is, i.e., if you require a visit to the clinic), tell the staff youre uncertain and request that you speak to a nurse or the doctors assistant over the phone. Dont be hesitant; if youre feeling concerned or anxious, let the clinic staff know.
- Dont insist on talking only to the doctor every time you call. For example, if you just need to make an appointment, or merely clarify a doubt, the nursing staff or receptionist may be able to help you. To put it differently: respect your doctors time!
- Dont misuse the phone by trying to wangle a free consultation. Not only is this act unfair to the doctor, but also such a consultation is likely to be very unreliable!
- When is the best time to call?
- What is the doctors rule for returning calls?
- Whom should you speak with (e.g., assistant, nurse) if the doctor cant come to the phone?
- What is the phone number for making emergency calls or for calls when the office is closed?
- Whom can you call if your doctor is out of town?
When you reach your doctor or his assistant over the phone, be prepared to:
- Identify yourself.
- Get to the nitty-gritty quickly, especially if youve phoned after hours. (Have someone else call the doctor for you if you are unable to talk.)
- Define your problems and symptoms accurately but swiftly. Write them down and keep them near the telephone so you can report them quickly and completely.
- Report results of self-tests and other symptoms you have been keeping track of, such as a temperature of 101°F for two days, diarrhea that has lasted for 48 hours, and so on.
- Ask the doctor what you should do and write down his instructions carefully. Ask the doctor to spell out any word if you are unsure about it.
- Ask if and when you should call back, or if you should come to the clinic.
- Ascertain what complications could occur that may require you to hurry to the emergency room.
- Dont forget to thank the doctor for talking to you on the telephone!
Making effective use of the telephone can help to save both you and your doctor considerable time, effort and money! learn to use this instrument wisely and well.