Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Want to reach your doctor? Try faxing!

I originally heard this fact from a customer of ours, but since then I’ve heard it from other sources as well: doctors don’t like to give out their email addresses. They don’t like to give them to hospitals. And they don’t like to give them to patients.

The reason is they’re afraid their inboxes would be inundated with email on a wide variety of subjects – most of which are of no interest to them. For example, it may be good to know that the hospital they’re associated with now has healthier choices in the cafeteria, but they don’t want to see it in their inbox. Same with the change in their pharmaceutical representative – they’ll find that out during the next sales call.

But what happens if they need to receive information on a patient being referred to them? It’s certainly important to know the patient’s history, any medications they’re already taking, any preliminary diagnoses, etc.

Most likely they’re going to receive that information via fax. It’s just the way many doctors prefer to work.

What that means to you is that doctors (or their office staff) check faxes more frequently, and with more interest, than they check email. So if you need to get some information to your doctor, or you want to make sure a message gets the attention it deserves, forget email and instead send a fax. Otherwise your message may do what most of us often do at the doctor’s office – sit around waiting forever.

Have any of you tried contacting your doctor via fax? And if you’re a doctor, has this been your experience too?


Anonymous said...

Doctors aren't in love with getting faxes from their patients for the same reasons they don't like email: It leaves a paper trail.

In a day and age when malpractice lawsuits are common, paper trails can indeed be worrisome for many doctors. Not because they are bad doctors, but because lawyers can and have been known to make mountainous issues out of minor differences of opinion among doctors when it comes to treating various conditions. And, surprise, surprise, Doctors are human beings and can actually make mistakes.

But regardless, I think that faxing your doctor (and mailing a copy of your fax) is a great way to optimize your overall care with your doctor. First of all, it's a great communication tool. When you take the time to write a letter, you can make sure you cover all of your symptoms and questions, leaving no details uncovered.

Secondly, a fax and letter puts your doctor in the hot seat so to speak. The patient that has a written record and paper trail is going to get more attention to detail and concern for their care than the patient that only communicates in the privacy of the doctors office. Your doctor will remember that you're the patient keeping records, and will make sure he dots every i and crosses every t when it comes to your health care.

I have a family member that sees multiple doctors and specialists each week. After beginning to communicate with our doctors by fax, I noticed a steadily increasing level of care. These doctors will now often take the time to actually call to check on symptoms and progress (probably hoping to avoid my future faxes!)

Some Tips:

When faxing your doctor, make sure you are straightforward and get to the point fast. Doctors don't have a lot of time, and they don't want to read about unrelated minutiae. Be cordial, but pithy.

Keep your faxes to a minimum. Think them through and make sure you cover everything before you press send. Dribbling in freshly remembered details every day or week is not going go over well.

Keep in mind that secretaries and other office staff may have access to your fax and may read your letter to your doctor first. Neither faxes nor emails are particularly private, but in a busy office, staff don't usually have any more time than your doctor to read and address items unrelated to their immediate workload.

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