“Doctor, I have this severe pain in my abdomen, and I don’t know what to do? Can you prescribe an antibiotic for me in case it’s an infection?”
These are words that try physician’s souls. And you know, the patient who is calling the doctor knows it’s not good medicine to treat by phone. It’s too dangerous. But many call anyway.
So the call starts out with the patient AND the physician not happy. It’s a known frustration for the patient who suspects such a discussion is best held in person where the physician can actually examine the patient. The physician isn’t happy because he or she understands the patient often expects a blind, but accurate diagnosis to be made and treatment prescribed that promptly fixes the symptoms preventing a worsening of the patient’s problem.
And yes, it’s true, the physician can indeed often guess right. But today, that is not a wise approach. It’s too risky for the patient AND the physician to guess.
If you have a true emergency, get to an emergency room right away. Don’t waste time waiting for someone to call you back who can’t really help an emergency over the phone anyway. Your Doctor or Physician’s Assistant may be in the ICU or Emergency Room with another patient and won’t be able to call you back for quite some time. So, don’t wait!
If you don’t have an emergency, don’t call. Plan to be seen when appropriate in the office where the equipment and staff are best prepared to assess medical issues. Any treatment should be carefully evaluated and planned in person and if it’s not an emergency, it can and should wait until you can get into the office.
If you have an urgent problem, get to an urgent care center where any necessary treatment can be carefully evaluated and planned in person. Urgent care centers are not equipped to best handle emergencies, so take potential life and death problems to the ER.
And who decides if it’s an emergency or not? YOU are the best person to do this. A medical person on the other end of a phone line cannot tell what you are feeling or examine you. YOU know if something is likely very wrong.
If you are in doubt as what to do, go to the ER. It’s a much safer approach. You deserve good care!
This is Dr. J Hocutt for Town Square Delaware Health Alerts. Write to me at AskDrHocutt@TownSquareDelaware.com. My comments are not intended as recommendations for individual treatment. See your personal physician to decide what is best for you.