DR. HOOK- One ringy-dingy: Why the doc doesn't call you back

"Why haven't you called me back?" 

That's probably the mantra for most single women and gay men. Macy Gray sang about having had such a good time, but wonders why you haven't called her back. Sex and the City finally explained why: "He just isn't into you." And let's face it. Most guys avoid confrontation. It's easier to break up with someone on a Post-It Note (also as shown on Sex and the City) than it is to meet face-to-face.

 But what does it mean when your doctor doesn't call you back?

 Well, there really isn't a correlation between the dating world and the doctor-patient world. So I hope you don't think, "My doctor isn't into me" if your doc doesn't return your phone call. There are probably lots of reasons you didn't hear from him or her.

During office hours, what's your doctor doing? Seeing patients! 

"Do unto others as you would others to do unto you." Would you like your doc to be interrupted by a phone call in the middle of talking about your important issues? "Ah, hold that thought while I answer a patient's phone call. Don't jump off a bridge between now and then. Seriously." 

 Some patients think the doctor has time to call between patients, but with 15-minute visits, that's impossible. When directed to the nurse, the patient might plead, "But it will only take a minute–" A minute in patient time would burn Minute Rice and Instant Oatmeal to a crisp. 

 Don't believe me? The voice mails left on my phone have the time recorded. I would say that, on average, patients' voice messages are 4-5 minutes long. I used to be guilty of leaving long voice messages, until I learned that 99 percent of my friends never listen to my messages past 15 seconds. (Of course, it didn't help I usually started each message with a 20-second song.)

 I respond to all my messages: emails and phone calls. But if someone keeps emailing or calling me back every 15 seconds with the same problem, I make them come in for an appointment. If it's that important, you need to see the doctor. 

 I do have some folks email me a question, but then will email me 5-10 more times to question my answers. "You said to take Tylenol. Is generic okay?" Yes, that's fine. "Which generic do you recommend?" Any is fine. "Which pharmacy do you recommend?" Um, it's 8pm, and I still have 500 charts to go through. 

 Usually the office staff will talk to the patient, run it by the doctor, and get back to the patient. That really is the only way to survive in today's world of medicine. Doctors have to see many, many patients to keep the office afloat. That means you aren't the only patient; it in no way means you aren't important. It's just that there's one doctor and thousands of patients.

 I think some doctors don't call the patient back because after working 12 hours and being sleep deprived from being on call, sometimes making phone calls at 9pm is difficult. That's why I'm the email king (or queen): I type 100 words a minute, and there isn't chit-chat-chit-chat to slow me down.

 I think in the near future every doctor is going to charge for out-of office-communication. Some already do. Say "Hello" to Dr. VISA.

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.



My dentist feels my nads so that makes me feel special.

So what you are saying is the doc has time to send out bills and unless there is money involved don't expect a followup even though the doc said they would do something and don't. If a doc is too busy to followup or have a nurse respond to a request for more info on how to relieve a pain perhaps that is a sign the doc has too many customers. Two mercedes in the driveway should not be a sign of success but quality of treatment should.

People expect quality and some docs seem to expect quantity. Too bad there isn't a middle ground for those docs.

Perhaps the medical oath should be repeated daily.

What Dr. Hook was getting at is that there are other people who handle the billing for the doctor's office. He also clearly indicated that he thinks patients should be responded to and in a timely fashion, but perhaps by a nurse or other office staff rather than only by the doctor.

If you were ignored by a physician or physician's office that's unacceptable; but don't try to make it seem as though Dr. Hook is trying to say that kind of behavior should be permitted.

As for middle ground, email seems to be a good one. Speaking to the office staff and accepting a response from them seems another.

Yes it seems to me that many problems in the medical profession are caused by one doctor or nurse trying to deal with too many patients.

My kid's pediatrician was a really nice guy in the world (just like Dr. Hook!) but his office was run terribly, it wasn't uncommon to have to wait two hours for a pre-scheduled appointment.

I don't think the criticism that "In Pain" leveled is fair. Certainly doctors are not the ones handling billing. And when, for instance, my daughter was seizing in the middle of the night and was brought back by the knowledge and care of a physician who had spent over eight years training for that night - all I could feel was gratitude. If that means they are rewarded financially for the years of training and sacrifice, I think they deserve it. Certainly, we have all experienced doctors who are not the best at what they do, but that only makes me feel so good about the ones who are the best - knowledgable, caring, and although pressed for time, ready to help.

I do understand that doctors have way more patients than they can honsetly handle.
I never talk to my dr on the phone only nurse and it seems like relaying information doesn't come easily to them. In the 2 years I have called maybe 2 x. I think if communication/organization were more clear the 1st time we would spend less time doing it. Called dr office Monday was told I would receive a call back yesterday or today. 2:38 pm eastern time here, office open another 2 hrs hmmmm. Would LOVE if I could send dr e-mail so I could eliminate any needless words. Sick of hearing $$$$$, pay for visit, pay form fees that is really shoving my file in a fax & hitting send but it takes a week to do that. Due to spine problem I see dr WAY too much & would just like to be treated like a human being just once in a while. I think $$$$$ has taken over true compassion. Maybe I'm missing something.