Phone contracture deformity

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 53 , No. 8 , October 2011 , Pages 388 Editorials

I am starting to feel (and look) more and more like my dad. Technology continues to move forward at a remarkable rate. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to be alive during such a medically exciting time. New discoveries and treatments abound.


““Hey Dad, how’s the new car?”    “Not so good,” he replies.  “There’s a red light flashing on the dashboard.”

“How is it running?” I ask.

“Fine. I only notice the light when I get out and lock it.”

“Um, Dad, that’s your alarm.”

I am starting to feel (and look) more and more like my dad. Technology continues to move forward at a remarkable rate. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m lucky to be alive during such a medically exciting time. New discoveries and treatments abound. 

Novel diseases are evolving and one po­tential technological malady I would like to add to this list is cell phone contracture deformity. I wonder how many of the current adolescent generation will develop hand contractures? Young people of today always seem to have their cell phone at the ready. They are constantly texting, scrolling, and talking. 

Often the first thing they do when leaving any establishment is to check their phones and call someone. I have to admit that I am a little jealous as I don’t really have anyone to call that would care that I have just left the gym and only managed two bicep curls with the 10-pound dumbbells.

Often when I enter an exam room, my young patients are texting away. I usually tease them and ask what important life-altering message they are sending to their friends. In res­ponse I usually get a blank stare.

I have to admit I get a little annoyed at the constant interruptions posed by patient’s cell phones. I find all the ring and text tones distracting. 

Some pa­tients even answer their phones. They often apologize but state that they have to answer because it is their children, some business contact, or someone really important like their lawyer. Usually they deal with the call quickly and remain apologetic.  However, one time a young woman answered her phone with a quick, “I’m sorry but I have to get this,” which would have been okay if it haadn’t been followed by her telling the caller, “No, this isn’t a bad time.” 

I’m not against technology, but I remember when we called our friends either someone answered, the phone was busy, or no one was home—end of story. Now we have call waiting, call display, call forwarding, hands-free, voice activation, and pet voice display paw-free activation (I made that last one up). 

I have to be very careful when I call patients with results. Previously if I called on a Friday after the office closed I wouldn’t leave a message because the patient would worry all weekend before being able to talk to me on Monday. However, thanks to call display, patients now know that I have called and not left a message, which panics them even more because clearly the news is too horrible to leave on the machine.

I used to have one contact number for patients, but now I have home, work, and all the families’ cells. Cell phones have certainly made it easier to get hold of patients, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing as they now call the office updating my staff as to their ETAs, symptom progression, lunch plans, etc. 

One of my most memorable cell phone experiences was when I receiv­ed a message that a patient’s mother had died unexpectedly. She was really distraught. Too distraught to come down to the office, but she was wondering if I could call in a mild sedative for her. I called her at home and there was no answer but fortunately she answered her cell. I offered my condolences and we chatted for a few minutes during which I thought I heard some background car noise like she was driving. She then suddenly excused herself and I heard her say, “I’d like 20 Timbits and a large double-double.”
—DRR

David R. Richardson, MD. Phone contracture deformity. BCMJ, Vol. 53, No. 8, October, 2011, Page(s) 388 - Editorials.



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