I sometimes find it puzzling that some patients don’t have the contact details of their doctors. Ever since hell-owship, all my patients would have my number and social media contacts, and surprisingly I never found it bothersome. They were mostly respectful and considerate. I maybe regret giving my contacts to less than 5% of my patients, particularly to those who still use what I erroneously assumed is now an archaic way of closing text messages: text back ASAP! But in general, having direct communication gives me a better idea of their condition, makes the patients feel more secure, and generally makes running things more efficient.
Back in hell-owship I once had to cancel clinics because I had to attend to my sick father, and I was able to text my patients, who came from far flung areas, not to come to Manila that day. This saved me a huge amount of guilt, as one of those patients had to walk miles and miles, cross a bridge on foot, and ride a boat just to get to the cancer institute. As a newbie oncology trainee I once forgot to prescribe prednisone and anti-uric acid meds for a patient on the CHOP regimen for lymphoma, and I was happily able to call her that night to give advice. In the end I think it’s really for my benefit.
Of course there are the cons: I could be opening myself up to all kinds of legal problems, specially now that I’m dispensing more and more prescriptions and other documents online. I could one day wake-up to a viral screencap of my conversations, and be judged as snooty and arrogant just because I replied with one-word replies, or I did not put in a smiling emoji. Armando Garmando also said that the more people know my contacts, the greater the chances of me getting hacked. I once missent a message to a patient, and luckily it was a rather innocent–but in the context of terminal cancer still offensive–laughter. The laughter went something like this: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!
Recently more and more patients use Messenger as their preferred mode of communication. I sometimes click their profile to see what they are like outside the clinic, and for sure they also check mine. Some patients post fund-raising efforts. Some work in Krusty Krab. Some are, surprisingly (from how I knew them in the clinics), staunch DDS fanatics. I once had a social media savvy patient who was terminally ill from progressive Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She had been in the hospital for over a month, and the expenses were piling up. A day before she died she posted a photo of the food her mom bought from the sidewalk vendors along Faura–fried fish and rice wrapped in plastic. It would be her last meal. Her caption was: Wala na talaga kaming pera.