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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Can you get off your phone long enough for me to examine you?

Dr David Turner writes

I hate technology, I’m a dinosaur I admit it.

I don’t have a problem with that though, people are fascinated by dinosaurs. Now having worked in the NHS since the Conservatives were last buggering it up, I have witnessed, first hand, the development of a phenomenon; the use of mobile phones by patients.Back in the late 1990s mobile phones were still a relative novelty and expensive to use.

Sure a lot of patients had them, but most would have kept them in their pockets and certainly not dreamed of taking them out in a hospital or surgery, where signs warning them that the techonology risked ‘interfering with vital medical equipment’ hung threateningly from every wall. Even the most hardcore technophile didn’t want to be responsible for causing the malfunctioning of a premature baby’s ventilator.

Times have moved on though, and now it seems the whole country has a flat box permanently glued to their dominant hand. Everybody that is, except me.

Even I could not totally resist the tidal wave of technology, but my concession to it is the most basic model of phone, which spends most of its life switched off and in my pocket.

Patients, though, seem unable to manage the ten-second walk from the waiting area to my room without initiating some conversation in cyberspace.

To be fair all that guff about interfering with electronic equipment was crap. I mean, you can even use your phone on an aeroplane now, which is apparently safer than taking a pair of nail clippers on board.

My main objection to this prioritisation of the virtual world above the real world is that it is just plain rude. But maybe someone under the age of 30 can explain to me when it became socially acceptable to answer and engage in a detailed discussion with one’s car mechanic about the pros and cons of using remoulded tyres while undergoing a vaginal examination? I jest not, this has happened to me.

It’s the bizarre way that this technology has seized the collective attention of the population that intrigues me. A homeless patient with an infected bite showed me the video footage on his phone of the insect crawling up his leg and biting him. At no point in this episode had it occurred to him to brush the insect off, such is the hypnotic draw of the phone screen.

Yet despite most of the information known to mankind being available at their fingertips, it seems the masses are still unable to look up the symptoms of a common cold.

Oh well, it will keep old T-Rex here in a job a bit longer.

Dr David Turner is a GP in west London

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Isn't strange how technology can and has increased anxiety about unimportant things, but the important stuff gets lost in the noise!

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  • I've had em sitting in front of me for 30 seconds discussing their Friday night plans. Sad affair.

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  • But dont forget the speculum you used was high tech at one time. Now you pop it in without a thought!

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  • The last time I told a patient not to answer their phone whilst consulting me stormed out and said I was rude!

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  • Who are 'the masses' David? Are you looking at the person or mainly the computer screen while they consult you?

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  • Dear 7:34, what is your point exactly? Sorry but it makes no sense in response to the sadly all to accurate article. Well done for trying but maybe try GCSEs, A levels, then medical school first and then come back and comment with the rest of us??

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  • If they use the phone in the consultation I take it they have ended their consultation with me and silently escort them to the door..

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  • Hey 3.46pm, there's a time and place for everything. You wouldn't pop it in at the supermarket check-out...or would you?!

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  • Annoying when the waiting room has people loudly sharing their personal details, worse when the wretched things ring during a consult, excruciating when they answer them

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  • I have called through patients from waiting room that have either asked me to wait or just put a finger I dicated "just a minute", taking calls or texting in consultation... Many do apologise if their phone goes and will turn it off or ask if They can quickly respond ... To name a few incidences. The waiting room ones I say I'll come back after I've seen my next patient and the taking calls/texting ones I nicely ask tell them to pop back out and I'll see my next patient so they can finish their call. Occasionally get answered back but generally works and I really enjoy doing it. To 7.34pm, I rarely type on the computer during consultation unless looking up results/previous history etc.

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