In a letter responding to that essay, Mary Chinn, MD, a family medicine physician in Illinois, said she started giving out her cell number to her obstetrics patients, and “can count on one hand” the number of times a cell call could have waited until the morning.
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Explore This IssueNovember 2013
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“There are just a handful of patients I am not sure I would want to share my number with,” she wrote. “Overall, I would recommend cell phone contact.”
Another letter of response had a different experience. Jonathan Dreazen, MD, a family medicine doctor in Pennsylvania, said he has “devoted and loyal patients,” but that they would still call after hours for things that weren’t critical. His wife, he says, “found after-hours calls an unpleasant intrusion into our lives,” especially on nonurgent matters.
“After 25 years of solo practice, I finally had enough,” he wrote. “I am now in an occupational medicine practice in which I work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with no evening or weekend call. I feared the pager enough. I cannot imagine having the same relationship with my cell phone.”
Thomas Geppert, MD, a rheumatologist at Rheumatology Associates in Dallas, says he uses the cell phone to call patients and does not use a blocking feature.
“It has rarely been a major problem,” he says. “Most people are fairly respectful of physician time. I think I’ve probably had two or three inappropriate phone calls in the last six or seven years of using the cell phone. Some of my partners do use blocking features.”
Another rheumatologist, who was attending the recent European Congress of Rheumatology in Madrid and practices outside Boston, says he doesn’t give out his cell phone.
“If they have free access to you they can call you anytime,” he says. “Maybe you might even be away. Like right now, I’m away. They’ll call me on my cell phone, they’re not going to get anybody. They might think that I’m not answering them on purpose. Or if it’s urgent, they just wasted their time when they should be going to the E.R. So I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
He does call patients with his cell phone, but uses the *67 feature to block his number.
“One time I screwed up and didn’t use it,” he says. “And you know what? I got a call.”