Only half my callers require one. I’m happy to phone a pharmacy when guests forget legitimate medication: blood pressure pills, heart pills, contraceptives, etc. I don’t do this for guests who tell me “I had the same thing last year, and my doctor prescribed……”.

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I’m happy to phone a pharmacy when guests forget legitimate medication: blood pressure pills, heart pills, contraceptives, etc. I don’t do this for guests who tell me “I had the same thing last year, and my doctor prescribed……”.

Exceptions exist. If a caller has had gout I believe him. It’s acceptable to treat a young woman with a typical bladder infection over the phone. If you’re wondering about symptoms of a “typical” bladder infection, I’m not telling. You have to tell me. Most “my doctor prescribes…” calls concern upper respiratory infections where the guest has received the traditional placebo antibiotic.

Injuries are tricky. A doctor’s exam rarely diagnoses a fracture, but most common injuries are not urgent, even when a fracture is present. If guests are willing to wait until business hours, I can send them to an orthopedist’s office, more civilized than an emergency room. For back pain, a housecall is better. If you go where there’s an x-ray, you’ll get one, and experts agree that back x-rays are almost never helpful.

Much of my decision on making a housecall depends on the law of averages. It’s unwise to assume that chest pain in a fifty year-old is not serious but OK at twenty. A sore throat in a child or adolescent might be strep which medical science can cure. After age fifty strep almost unheard of. I’ve never seen a case.