Patient-Doctor Texting Each Other: Should They Do It?
Are you texting your doctor and is your doctor texting you back? I have been
surprised reading about the extent to which the social activity of smart phone
texting has become some part of medical practice. Read about it in the
New York Times. Look at statistics in the Atlantic. And see a communication company's
statement about the financial value for texting in medical practice.
It sounds like a wonderful and practical addition to the providing of medical
care and particularly care for patients in the ages known to avidly text as part
of their daily activities. But is texting while treating or being treated really
and fully a "medical good" or contains issues and hazards, bad outcomes, which
have been documented with texting while walking or driving or other activities?
Instead of distraction, a recognized hazard, texting by and to patients in
medicine can lead to other concerns. One obvious concern, that of medical
privacy, as directed in the United States HIPAA regulations, would be knowing
exactly who is texting who. Also, is there any assurance of medical privacy of
all communication when texting with our current technology? Finally, there is the
issue of what should and what shouldn't be texted between patient and doctor. A
request for an appointment with the doctor and a reply might be one use and could
be acceptable. But how much more than that? And beyond texting is doctor-patient
participation in other social media interactions such as Facebook an ethical way
of communication? (But that is for another thread.. here, lets stick to texting.)
Communication within a doctor-patient relationship can be a complex process with
subtle nuances, particularly in dealing with symptoms, disease and treatment. There
are many important subtleties in direct communication which are not just verbal but also involve
facial expressions and other body language and touch Communication of clinical issues
by normal phone talk are devoid of such essentials and certainly with texting and only
a few text characters there is no possibility for more detail of a patient's attitude and feelings and expressions of concern, understanding or uncertainty or cooperation except with "LOL" type characterizations.
Read the links above and then come back and write about your thoughts about the
benefits or harms to texting either by the patient or the doctor. And by the way,
on this blog, unlike most smart phone texting, your comments can contain up to
4096 characters! ..Maurice.
Graphic: From Google Images