Did I Say That?: The lack of etiquette for tele-communication
I had an appointment with my doctor the other day. It was one of those “telemedicine” appointments where you have to use Zoom or Doom or whatever it’s called. Those appointments can be scary, especially when you can’t see the doctor and she needs to check your body parts.
Everyone says telehealth is the future, but I want to return to the past and the golden age of medicine when doctors made house calls ... along with insurance men and encyclopedia salespersons. In those days, we had more face-to-face encounters. If the doctor had to check your tonsils, they were hanging right there in front of him, and not on the computer screen. I mean these technological advancements have to be pretty hard on dentists and ophthalmologists.
In order to see my doctor, I had to go into a “virtual waiting room.” And that’s exactly what I did. I waited a half hour before my appointment. Fortunately, nobody else was in there.
They wanted me a half hour early in case I didn’t know which buttons to push on the computer or got lost in cyberspace and started wandering into examination rooms where people were undressed on their computer screens.
I suspect the American Medical Association will be coming out with a rule book that has something to say about protocol for virtual waiting rooms and how to get IT support.
I’ve often wondered whether doctors delight in keeping people waiting. They should remember what Hippocrates said 2½ millennia ago in the Hippocratic oath: “Don’t keep patients waiting because it raises their blood pressure and increases their anxiety.”
It turned out that I waited longer online than I usually wait in the office. At least I didn’t have to sit there, thumbing through magazines from 2018 or watching health videos about rare diseases. Instead I used my time productively and did some Internet searches with WebMD so I could tell the doctor what my diagnosis was and save her some time figuring it out.
Now, before the medical profession gets riled and calls for a boycott of my column or Goya products, let me say with a sincere heart that I love my doctors. In fact, I love all doctors because I’m scared to think where we would be without them, and the fact that I’m willing to wait proves how much I love them.
Actually, my sister is a doctor, and I keep HER waiting all the time when we meet for breakfast. As revenge, she makes me pick up the tab.
I used my time in the virtual waiting room to snack on junk food, and then I stuffed the wrappers under my pillow when she came online. You should never let your doctor catch you snacking or with a piece of Snickers between your teeth or nacho crumbs clinging to your chin.
When I teach online, I hate to be kept waiting so I tell my students to get to class 15 minutes early. There’s nothing more annoying than late student munching during class. I recently discovered a cool button that lets me lock them out of my virtual classroom if they aren’t in their virtual seats when they’re supposed to be.
There’s no etiquette to this online stuff. Last semester, students were lying on their beds, by their pools, in their cars. (I once had a telemedicine session with a doctor who pulled over to the side of the road. But that didn’t seem like the right setting for a discussion about health issues like hemorrhoids or groin pain.)
In the olden days when I went to the doctor, it was different. I always dressed up because it was an important occasion. My outfit was nothing worthy of GQ, only a pair of khakis, a sport shirt and loafers. All that went by the wayside. With telemedicine, I lounge around in my gym shorts, sandals and a wrinkled tee shirt with chocolate stains. (Ahh, while I was waiting for the doctor and snacking, I got chocolate on my shirt.)
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.