Hitting a Nerve

On vacation, my patients go with me


I’m in the process of planning our family vacations for the summer. I do something different from most when on the road: I take my patients with me.

Well, obviously not physically, but I do cover everything, no matter where I am.

Yes, it takes time. In a ritual my family is used to, two to three times a day I’ll call my staff and go over a list of calls that came in, refills needed, and test results. We go back and forth for a bit. For more complicated questions, I may have to wait until I have my laptop, with the charts on it. If there’s an emergency they’ll call me, and if I can’t be reached, they’ll dial up my call partners.

Dr. Allan M. Block

Dr. Allan M. Block

Why do I bother myself like this? A few reasons:

• I know my patients. I think we all feel that way. I’m more comfortable, and I hope they are too, with the doc who knows them making the decisions.

• My call partners don’t know them. We’re all in solo practice. They don’t have access to my charts any more than I do to theirs. That’s an okay arrangement for a weekend call, but not 2 weeks.

• No surprises. I know that I’m not going to be coming home to a pile of MRI and lab reports that I need to review and act on. If my patient was in the ER or admitted, I spoke to the physician handling it.

A long time ago, when I first started out, I asked another neurologist in my building to cover for me when I was leaving town. I didn’t know him very well, but I was still learning the ropes. He said fine.

When I came home, I found he’d actually “poached” several who’d called, having them come in and convincing them to switch doctors. He’d also changed medications on well-controlled epilepsy and migraine patients who’d needed refills, leaving me to deal with the complications of it when I returned.

Granted, I’ve since learned that he was unusual in that degree, but it really rattled me. I decided I’d rather handle things on my own from then on.

This isn’t an easy decision, but I’m glad I do it. I come home to an office with no surprises, no test results piled up to review, no medication changes that I look at and wonder about.

Does it ruin my vacation? Not at all. Yes, it’s 30-60 minutes out of each day that I have to spend with my office, but I think it’s worth it. It’s peace of mind for me, my staff, and my patients, at least as much as you can ever have in this field.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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