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Call Me Maybe

Hey, I just met you and this is crazy
But here’s my number, so call me, maybe?

Carly Rae Jepsen, Call Me Maybe

In 2014, I moderated a #HealthXPH tweet chat on the use of SMS between healthcare providers and patients. In that chat, I asked the following questions:

T1 As a healthcare provider, do you give your personal mobile number if a patient asks for it? Why or why not?

T2 What information can be safely disclosed in a text message between healthcare provider and patient?

T3 In what ways is SMS used in your setting for patient engagement?

I might as well say that’s 2014 BC – Before COVID. And if I asked these questions now, I’m likely to get different answers. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, quarantine measures meant clinics closed or accepted a limited number of appointments. SMS, calls and messaging apps on mobile phones helped physicians and patients to connect.

In the UP Medical Informatics Unit’s Teleconsultation: Guidance for Filipino Physicians, the following were the benefits of a phone call: convenient, fast (good for urgent cases), real time, and privacy can be ensured. Limitations include the absence of visual cues (not ideal for conditions needing visual input) and difficulty in confirming identities of both doctor and patient on the call. A video consultation on the other hand would be the closest to an in-clinic visit but would be dependent on wifi speed. Slow or unavailable wifi, expensive data packages and lack of wifi-capable devices limit many patients to either a landline telephone or a basic mobile phone.

As I write this, there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where I trained and now teach, is a COVID referral center. It has again closed its outpatient clinics. As a government hospital, the PGH serves those with no capacity to pay for services. For these patients, a phone call is the most feasible way to conduct a consultation. Let’s discuss telephone health services at the #HealthXPH tweet chat 27 Mar 2021 9 pm (Manila time).

T1 As a health worker or patient, what health services can be delivered via telephone? What limitations have you observed or do you anticipate for such services?

T2 What are your suggestions to ensure quality and safety of telephone health services?

T3 What support is needed to encourage health workers and patients to use telephone health services?

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