PHYSICIANS should be compensated for the time they spend talking with patients by telephone.
The telephone is very useful for patients. They can speak to the office nurse or the physician and do so frequently. From 1976 through 1978, a large percentage of patient-physician encounters were by telephone: 19% of general practitioner encounters, 18% of family practitioner encounters, 28% of pediatrician encounters, 23% of general internist encounters, 20% of obstetrician/gynecologist encounters, and 12% of general surgeon encounters.1 Moreover, information and advice obtained by telephone are usually free.Use of the telephone also benefits third-party payers. Contact with the nurse or physician can prevent visits to the emergency department or the physician's office. For example, the majority of after-hours callers to one family practice clinic reported that they would have gone straight to the emergency department if they had not been able to call.2 The results are