By Dr Irwin Lim, Rheumatologist
On Saturday, my mobile was rung by a number I didn't recognise. A concerned family member of a patient.
The patient's an elderly gentleman, with Giant Cell Arteritis. This is a serious condition with a very serious possible complication of sudden blindness. He's already loss vision in one eye. The treatment in most cases is Prednisone, steroid therapy.
She rang to tell me that her uncle had developed a short episode of very sharp pain behind his good eye. This occurred as we were weaning the dose of Prednisone. They were understandably very worried.
My advice was to double the amount of steroid. She was to ring me again if he developed another episode and we arranged a consultation early in the week.
The alternative if she couldn't reach me or the patient's general practitioner? Remember, it's the weekend.
Well, she would have brought her relative to the emergency department. A Saturday afternoon. Likely a wait of many hours. Tests would have been ordered. A full history would have been recounted. Depending on the senority of the attending doctor, treatment would be delayed somewhat.
The cost? Lots of time & some potential wasted health dollar.
I'll admit that I don't give my mobile number to all patients. But the ones I'm worried about have it. I'm contactable by email as well.
I of course want to have my weekends "patient-free" and over the years, there have only been a few patients who have abused my gesture.
The point of this post is to let you know that many doctors do this. It's one way they try to help their patients, and to reduce load on an always stretched public health system. It's peace of mind for the patient (and me).
And, it saves time & money.
What is your experience with needing quick access to your rheumatologist?Dr Irwin Lim is a rheumatologist and a director of BJC Health. You should follow him on twitter here. Arthritis requires an integrated approach. We call this, Connected Care. Contact us.