Gone are the days when the doctors had a specific consultation hours and differential working conditions. With WhatsApp and other apps, everyone is accessible, or so – think patients.
Majority of the doctors believe this is a major hassle considering that most doctors work for about 12-14 hours a day. “I start my day at 8am in the morning and finish at 9pm technically. But even post that, patients keep messaging or calling for various reasons. If it is a genuine one, it is undoubtedly welcome, but most of the times, it is not! Patients need to know that we too are humans and need our time,” said Dr Pratit Samdhani, practicing internal medicine at Breach Candy hospital. Dr Samdhani is one of the many doctors who have put a WhatsApp status message saying ‘No consultation on WhatsApp’.
While talking to My Medical Mantra, doctors confessed that most of the patients after developing a good rapport get encouraged for consultation via WhatsApp or through SMS.
“It becomes difficult when you are busy consulting a patient in the hospital and someone sends a WhatsApp message seeking consultation regarding treatment. I have seen patients, who after the first consultation, prefer treatment on WhatsApp,” said Dr Jatin Kothari, Nephorologist, PD Hinduja Hospital.
While many doctors believe that it is a very difficult argument, the one with both pros and cons. “In psychiatry, the patient needs to be on a long-term medicine and needs a constant follow-up. In case they just need to inform that they are alright, messaging on WhatsApp is okay as they need not waste money in traveling. But none of this can replace face to face consultation. Moreover, it could be dangerous because miscommunication of medical terms can occur,” said Dr Sagar Karia, psychiatrist at Sion Hospital. “For minor queries, patients just WhatsApp considering that they don’t have to pay consultation charges or spend time in waiting for the doctor at the clinic,” added Dr. Karia.
Health experts say doctors should not encourage patients for WhatsApp consultation as it can lead to complications or legal tangles. “WhatsApp consultation can lead to misdiagnosis of a disease. It can also lead to over treatment. It is important for every patient to understand that WhatsApp is an important communication tool, but cannot be a substitute to clinical examination,” said Dr Abijeet Kale, orthopaedic surgeon and assistant professor at LTMG Sion Hospital.