Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments

Doctor To Patient: “Do You Text And Drive?”

It’s time to ask patients whether they text and drive. An important perspective piece from the New England Journal of Medicine urges doctors to include that question during preventive health exams. The data surrounding texting and driving is grim:

Although there are many possible distractions for drivers, more than 275 million Americans own cell phones, and 81% of them talk on those phones while driving. The adverse consequences have reached epidemic proportions. Current data suggest that each year, at least 1.6 million traffic accidents (28% of all crashes) in the United States are caused by drivers talking on cell phones or texting. Talking on the phone causes many more accidents than texting, simply because millions more drivers talk than text; moreover, using a hands-free device does not make talking on the phone any safer.

The author of the piece, Amy Ship from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, says that doctors should update traditional preventive questions to keep up with the times.  The simple question, “Do you text while you drive?” is a way to start this important conversation.

But how can we deal with skeptical patients? Dr. Ship provides good advice when responding to patients who downplay the risk:

[Patients] ask why talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device, is more dangerous than talking to a passenger in their car. There are several reasons: first is the obvious risk associated with trying to maneuver a phone, but cognitive studies have also shown that we are unable to multitask and that neurons are diverted differently depending on whether we are talking on the phone or talking to a passenger.

When patients aren’t convinced, I ask them, “How would you feel if the surgeon removing your appendix talked on the phone — hands free, of course — while operating?” This hypothetical captures the essence of the problem — the challenge of concentrating fully on the task at hand while engaged in a phone conversation.

I’ve started to incorporate this question during my routine health exams, and it’s something all primary care doctors should consider as well.

*This blog post was originally published at KevinMD.com*


You may also like these posts

Read comments »


Comments are closed.

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »