The weather channel is advising me of a huge snow storm coming this way tomorrow, and I am bracing the clinic for an “all phone” day, where all patients will be seen over the phone for their appointments.
Most of my practice has occurred “inside the consult room”, with the patient and I sitting face to face across a desk. From early on in my practice, however, I also had conducted some consults by phone, and then mailed the remedy to the patient. When I first started to take on consults by phone in my practice, I wasn’t sure if it would be a completely workable method, as I feared for all the visual clues and body language that would be lost.
Fortunately, I found that it actually worked very well to have the consult by phone, as I naturally adapted all of the usual visual clues into a more honed sense of auditory clues available over the phone. If you pay attention to it, you’ll hear that there is a multi-dimensional world contained within the tone of someone’s voice, and the way they exchange a dialogue with you. I think of how much richer some of the old radio plays were, due to the fact that each member of the audience would need to actively paint pictures of the action inside their own imagination, rather than passively be spoon-fed the images as they appear on a screen in front of them. Likewise with the phone consults, I was required to actively apply my mind to discovering the “living image” of the patient as contained in their voice, rather than just sit back waiting for it to be delivered through visual cues.
The other example I think of is when our chorus director sometimes asks us during rehearsal to sing through a certain passage with our eyes closed, so that we can hear each other better, and more easily blend our voices harmoniously.
As much as I enjoy face-to-face time with patients, I’ve found that I can sometimes get to this diagnosis or “living image” even faster when I’m forced to focus through a different channel. My original apprehension about the phone consult quickly melted away once I had this first experience, and realized that everything I needed to know was contained inside the patient’s voice. As with everything in Heilkunst, the answers are found on the inside, and the outer form is usually more of a distraction than a help.