Patient Privacy? How About Physician Privacy?

December 20, 2010

We talk all the time about maintaining patient privacy, and I agree, it should be held sacred. But what about physician privacy? I spend all day talking to patients, and when necessary, their family. For the most part, I enjoy that. But at the end of the day, I would like to be home with my family, and I want to keep my professional life and my home life separate.

We talk all the time about maintaining patient privacy, and I agree, it should be held sacred. But what about physician privacy? I spend all day talking to patients, and when necessary, their family. For the most part, I enjoy that. But at the end of the day, I would like to be home with my family, and I want to keep my professional life and my home life separate. 

Of course, I understand that family-time can be interrupted (sometimes repeatedly) by messages from patients, pharmacies, physicians, and hospital staff. And that is fine. But I don’t want them calling me directly on my home phone or cell phone.

Imagine my surprise, when a couple of weeks ago, I answered my home phone and heard, “Uh, is this Dr. Young?” When I said yes, she said, “Oh, hi, it’s Jane (name changed).” I silently tried to think of who Jane could possibly be. “Jane?” “Yes, Jane Smith. Is this your office?” “No, this is my home.” “Oh, I’m sorry. I couldn’t find your card, so I Googled you. You should do something about that. Your home phone number, address, and husband’s name are on there. You don’t want patients calling you at home.” No, indeed. Now, let me say, I have Googled myself. As a matter of fact, I just did. And in the first three pages, there is no mention of my home address, phone number, or spouse.

I make it a point to use *67 when I call from my cell phone or home phone so my number doesn’t show up on patient's caller ID. But what to do when they don’t accept blocked calls? If it’s not an emergency, I figure they have to wait until I get to the office the next day. And if it is an emergency, I take a deep breath and cross my fingers and hope they never call me back on this number. I haven’t always been so lucky. I had a patient call me repeatedly at home for pain meds; meds that I didn’t prescribe in the first place. I have tried using Google voice, but have had trouble with it.

So how does one keep the office out of one’s home? Or do we just have to accept that we can’t be as private as we’d like?