The Texting Shrink

September 1, 2010
Shrink Rap

ShrinkRap's Dinah reviews the pros and cons of texting with patients, particularly as is applies to psychiatry.

The following originally appeared on ShrinkRap

I like texting. It's a fast and efficient way to exchange information, and I'm a bit prone to yakking, so this allows for a no-nonsense exchange without all the gabbing about how the kids are doing or the latest on someone's ingrown toenails, or the usual assortment of small talk items. Running late, order my salad. Yes, Bobby can get a ride home with us. Or, if you're Roy: "do you have triple sec for the mango margaritas?" Roy makes surprisingly good mango margaritas without using any triple sec. Just so you know-- and I don't mean to brag-- I'm fast with the thumbs.

I text with patients as well. Do other psychiatrists do this? It works well for "Need to cancel my session this week, see you next week." Or "Running 10 minutes late, traffic." Once in a while I'll even text a reminder to someone who misses appointments frequently. I was happy to hear that there is a dentist in town who also sends text message reminders.

Here's the problem with texting patients:

People have taken to texting me with problems. "I feel horrible and like I might want to end it all right now." (This did not really happen). I've done a few back and forths and realized that I'm not good at psychotherapy via text. Usually problem texts get met with "Come in at....." and if .... is not Very Soon, or if the patient says that's not good, I call, or text "call me." I've been texted insurance information, drug reactions, appointment changes, negative biopsy results, "will you call refills in to my pharmacy?" and most notably, "Your office door is locked" after I haven't responded to the knocking, only to find my patient sitting on the hallway floor.

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