One Good Reason To Switch Off Your Phone When You’re With Your Doctor

Posted on Jul 12, 2022

In day-to-day practice, we come across amusing instances that stump the doctor for a moment. This was one of them. This will be understood better if read in the light of the common Indian socio cultural mindset regarding children and marriage. I usually ask ladies whether they’re likely to be pregnant, so that I can avoid potentially harmful drugs, in case they are.

I had just finished listening to a young lady. She had walked in alone. Looked well groomed; dressed in what most of the 100% literate society here would derisively call “modern” – i.e jeans and a top. Lipstick, yes. Well touched eyes. A fancy, glittery handbag, yes. Looked like she’s spent 5K on her hair this week, yes. Literate? Definitely yes, since she was looking into her mobile every 30 seconds or so. Looked busy, yes or at least pretended to be. But not in a real hurry to go anywhere. We discussed her problem which was not so difficult to manage. At the same time, my attempts at a careful thought process and communication to help her recover from her seemingly trivial illness were frequently being distracted by her attention into her mobile phone.

I say nothing to such distracters now. After all, it’s their life. There is a prominent notice on my consultation door, in two languages- English and local- requesting people in the waiting area to “kindly” switch off their phones BEFORE entering the doctor’s room. The words have had little effect. If people from a proudly 100% literate state fail to comply with a simple suggestion, I usually don’t spend any more time requesting them to keep their mobiles aside. Previously, when I did, however politely, their faces frequently put up purposeful cringes. At best, there would be mocking apologies. The apologies were usually followed by closing whatever windows they had used the whole day or week, touching various buttons to put the phone in silent mode, and then switching off their mobiles, and then keep staring at the screen till it went completely blank. This took another full precious minute. On busy days, even these single minutes saved, when added up, would result in avoiding confrontations with the last few patients for the day.

Instead, if someone’s obsession with their mobile phone keeps distracting me too much, I now actually put it in the case notes– so in case they come with accusations of negligence later on, I know what to show them. I don’t know if we realize it. Using the mobile phone when a consultation is on can lead to poor communication and errors in decision making for both parties.

Let's come back to our young lady.

Dr (in all seriousness): “Madam, are you married?”

Young Lady: “Yes”.

Dr: “Are you likely to be pregnant?”

Young lady (distracted by her mobile, smiling at something): “I don’t know. My husband will be back after 2 more months”.

It sunk in a second I’m puzzled about the timing of that smile- was it the joke in her mobile, or was it her own response to the doctor’s question?? Now that will remain a mystery. For the problem she came to see me for, I decided that I didn’t need to know her intimate details. But I’m still wondering whether to put her exact words on permanent record, potentially inviting trouble for her later on. Technically, nothing wrong with that. Isn’t it? But in the end, you know how tolerant and alert and careful and what a nice chap your family doctor is we proceeded to discuss this point. In the end, we had a good laugh and she promised never to let the mobile distract her when she’s in the midst of anything else that deserves due respect. That’s why one should be attentive when the doctor is trying to help. Of course, one may expect the doctor also to stay away from the mobile. Believe me, we try our level best. But we do have to attend to genuine calls. It’s not practically possible for the doctor to switch off the mobile for hours at a stretch while at work- in fact, the mobile is a vital need for the 8-12 or 36 hour shifts for the doctor while at work. Its common sense.

All we request from patients and carers is to keep it away during the 5-30 minutes of the consultation.

Moral of the story:


So here’s one good reason for that. God only knows- it may help an unborn child figure out his/her real father’s name in case need arises in future