Texting Your Patient


| 3 Comments

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A recent New York Times article caught my eye when it said that doctors who text their teenage patients tend to get through to them better. I thought this was interesting seeing as we use texting in our class as a way for Andrew to get through to us. Technology is a very useful thing that all teenagers are connected to, and by using it in class and now for medical purposes, it helps adults connect to teens more. Doctors have started texting patients to stay strong and have a good day. Dr. Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas City, Missouri, has a Facebook page and Twitter and even a blog in order to connect with her patients. She says that she doesn't give teens brochures that they throw out, but rather has a whiteboard with QR codes and links that teens can check out at their own convenience and with privacy.

Dr. Burgert says that when her patients come in she tries to make them comfortable and establishes a good relationship. She talks about what they want to talk about and then maintains those relationships through social media and texting, with their parents permission of course. Teenagers have said that this method helps them feel more comfortable. If they have a question they can go to Dr. Burgert directly instead of talking to the nurses in order to reach the doctor. It is more direct and effective, and quicker for the teens.

Even though this approach seems to be helping the teenagers, does this breech boundaries that doctors and patients have? Is it appropriate to friend your patients on Facebook and text them? This is the reason why many doctors are hesitant to take up this approach. Many doctors offices have reminders via text about appointments and such, but not direct talking one-on-one.

Technology has made it easier for people to get in touch, but should that only be limited to friends and family? Or should doctors be texting and friending their patients? Do you think that it would really help teenagers feel more comfortable?

3 Comments

I knew I wanted to comment on your blog post immediately, as I just read this article yesterday. It seems to me that communicating through text with patients can build a better doctor-patient relationship with teenagers, as that is how teenagers communicate usually now. However, most teenagers are under 18, and so when something important happens, the parents need to know about it. This is the part that teenagers don't like, and the major problem I think there is with this method.

Personally, I would never friend my doctor on Facebook, but if I had an important, urgent question, it would be nice to know that my doctor was just a text away to answer my question.

I think that this topic is very intriguing. I have had the same doctor since my early childhood years but i don't even think i can recall his first name. If the technology is there why not use it in a variety of ways. Although this may help teenagers with their health and relationship with their doctors many may choose not to do this because it is 'weird' or 'uncommon'. Its kind of like being friends with your mom on Facebook, some people are just completely against it even if there are hidden benefits. I think it would be interesting to see further studies done on this topic . You could have two groups with one communicating frequently with their doctors while the other has limited to zero contact. It would be interesting to see how these two groups differ, and if there are any results that occur from being within a specific group. If you can find another study that goes more into depth it would be cool to see a follow up blog on the results.

I have to say that although I am all for increasing the use of technology in our society, I do not agree that it should mix with medicine in this way. One major reason has already been mentioned, the fact that contacting our doctors in this fashion could create unclear boundaries in the doctor-patient relationship. However, my immediate thought after reading this was from the perspective of the doctor. While texting and "facebooking" our doctor might be convenient for us, it would be EXTREMELY taxing for them. Consider the amount of patients that one doctor is assigned to. Now, think about how many responsibilities they have in the office and how impossible it would be to manage text messages from potentially hundreds of people at any moment on top of their stressful work hours. While communication is important, everyone needs their down time. If we are constantly bombarding someone like a doctor, how can we trust that they will be totally dedicated and focused on their work when they are actually on the clock?

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