In his essay, "The Virtual House Call," Dr. Siegel discusses many of the challenges facing the 21st century physician in the United States. Here is a free sample (yes, we here at drugwonks are still giving away free samples) of his discourse:
"I have a litmus test to check on my humanity. I call it the virtual house call. It isnâ€™t an actual house call but it relies on similar notions of inconvenience in order to help a patient. Rarely do we have time these days to travel to a patientâ€™s home. We must extend ourselves beyond our offices and our blackberries in caring for our patients in order to become truly empowered as physicians. This extension of self is the virtual house call.
Here is my litmus test: Every day I leave my office for a cup of coffee when I get restless. The coffee shop is one block south of where I practice. I ask myself what I would do if one of my patients, on his or her way to see me, suddenly collapsed right outside that same coffee shop I frequent and called my office from his cell phone while gasping for air.
Would I instruct my nurse to call 911, or would I run the same block I always walked?
Would I at least show as much commitment to my patient as I show to my caffeine habit?
Iâ€™ve never had to face this particular litmus test, but I certainly hope I would pass it. And each time I pick up the phone to check in on one of my patient, Iâ€™m conscious of a similar kind of litmus test. As I listen over the phone to the telling sounds of fast breathing or nervous coughing, I make determinations that my nurse or secretary could never make. I try to remain available, to not set strict limits. Iâ€™m convinced that continuity of care makes me a better doctor.
Dr. Siegel's entire composition can be found at both at the top of this page and at http://www.cmpi.org under the "Report" heading. The larger paper is titled, "The Hazards of Harassing Doctors."