Why phone calls should not be used to discuss sensitive health information

Telephone calls

Patients and doctors alike should be aware of the pitfalls and hazards of conveying or discussing sensitive health information over the regular phone.

Such communication has a major flaw, especially if dealing with incoming numbers which are unknown, and that is one cannot conclusively identify who the other party is.
In Singapore, a doctor got into trouble when someone impersonated a patient’s husband over the phone.
As such, doctors in this day and age, should not convey things like lab results, make diagnoses, or provide medical advice and recommendations over the phone. Even if calling a known phone number, one cannot be certain one is speaking to the correct individual.

The best such meeting is a face-to-face meeting. If the patient cannot come to the clinic or hospital, then technology exists today where the meeting is virtually face to face using modern Telemedicine tools.

There are limitations to this sort of Technology as there is no physical contact. Nevertheless, it is still an important tool as doctors for example, can convey and explain laboratory reports, provide education and counselling, address new or follow-up concerns which do not require physical examination etc.

In the age of broadband where the Internet speed is fast enough for virtual face to face communication, Telemedicine will take off in this country. Doctors and patients alike need to learn and adapt to the new tools and services which are available to them.

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Malaysian physician, haematologist, blogger, web and tech enthusiast