Sometimes it might be most appropriate for you to get in touch with a patient by SMS. Although there are more preferable methods of communication, sometimes a last-minute addition, or a new list, means an SMS is the most efficient way to communicate.
You might need to ask your patient to complete your pre-op form, with little time to go before the operation. Or, potentially, you might want to call your patient to discuss their pre-op form responses. In any case, you might find yourself hesitant to give your patients your mobile number.
You’re not alone…
Many anaesthetists have expressed initial hesitance to give out their mobile number. However, we’ve found that doing so is, in fact, best practice. Some of the reasons why it can be so useful, are as follows:
- It allows you to be contactable if there is a serious problem. We’re sure you’d rather the patient contact you, than the surgeon, should they have concerns or wish to complain about you or the anaesthetic
- It builds patient rapport, creating happier patients, and reducing the risk of complaint
- Patients rarely, if ever, abuse the privilege
- Patients feel valued, and secure, by having your mobile number
- Patients are more likely to text you than call you. This is something that can’t be done with a landline number
- If there’s a problem with the anaesthetic, you need to know about it first
No doubt, you already receive plenty of calls from hospitals, and people trying to sell you something. A few more people with your mobile number will make very little difference.
We’re sure you probably already screen your calls, before answering. If ever you have a problem with unwanted calls from a number, you can choose to ‘block’ it. Most smartphones allow you to do this directly from the handset.
You can, of course, always redirect your patient’s call, if they’re contacting you to discuss something you don’t want to talk about, such as billing.
If you’re still reluctant to send text messages to your patients, here are some alternative methods you could consider:
- Set up an iMessage (Mac) account, and message people from your computer
- Use an affordable text message service such as SMSbroadcast.com.au. Although it shows your name and not your mobile number, when we tested the reply feature, it didn’t work. This would annoy patients if they tried to reply
- Buy a separate sim card, and send messages from the second number
- Ask your assistant or partner to send the messages from their phone.
Alternatively, you could simply choose not to contact them at all. It’s entirely your decision.
A patient had complications the day after having an anaesthetic. They went to their GP, contacted the surgeon, and visited the local hospital. The hospital staff then decided, 8 days later, that the problem was caused by the anaesthetic. It was deemed to be the anaesthetist’s fault. The patient was unhappy with the anaesthetist, as they were told it was them who had caused the problem.
The surgeon, who the anaesthetist had only just started working with, became concerned. The patient then lodged a complaint, and took matters further.
This is a true story. And, as it happens, the anaesthetist wasn’t at fault.
If it had been you in this scenario, wouldn’t you have preferred the patient to contact you, the moment the problem had arisen? Wouldn’t you have preferred to sort the issue out right away, rather than allowing everyone else to blame you, before you were notified?
If a patient has your mobile number, you can avoid all this escalation. You can encourage your patients to contact you directly, in the event of any concerns. In our experience, it’s a small price to pay, for mutual peace of mind.