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Updated on August 3, 2017



by Dr. Helen Borel

On June 5, 2008, I responded to a cadre of psychologists lauding the "value" of non-hands-on "treatment" of psychiatric patients for monetary reasons and so-called healthcare efficiency. "Dispatch patients rapidly with little feeling or humanity" seemed a concept that enthralled the participants (at a convention on this weird topic, no less). Feverishly praising the technology that now allows home-bound mentally compromised, emotionally ill, frail elderly and assorted emotionally needy others to be reached by phone, computer, and probably even by UFO, I was so distressed by this notion that I sent the greedy "practitioners" the following notice:

Sorry guys! I’m of the old-school. The one with the compassion and understanding that recognizes that patients require HANDS-ON healthcare…ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO MENTAL HEALTH. Patients need to see your face, to hear the words and see them coming from your lips.

I can’t believe the play I wrote in the 1970s called "Switchboard," about the practice of medicine by telephone alone, is coming true. Mine was a futuristic satire. But you guys think this is something good. This is tragic.

How in the world did we become such a mechanical, hands-off society that "distant yearning" is all that patients are entitled to? Since when does a phone call…or a television monitor…or an out-of-state ICU doc substitute for quality patient care? These practices are so out of left field, it boggles my mind.

"BEHAVIORAL TELEHEALTH"? That’s the unhealthiest unhealthcare of all. I don’t care about studies and bottom-line-oriented studies. I care about patients. They are paramount. Why don’t the "researchers" ask patients whether they’d rather have a human being visit them than a machine that logs into their life…or a disembodied phone call?

I have a suggestion: Why don’t people who seem interested in avoiding direct patient contact choose some other field of study and lifetime career…instead of healthcare and psychiatric care that requires THE HUMAN TOUCH?

Or else, why don’t we outsource our patients to an island of sick people where we don’t have to see them, hear them or touch them gently at all? What next, Robo-Nurse?

Helen Borel,R.N.,Ph.D.


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    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      This is a very interesting topic. I have agoraphobic tendencies with my PTSD, which has led me to empathize with home-bound psych consumers. In those few cases, I can see a value in this type of care. It unnerves me that people would think this is a benefit in this case or in others. If anything, its a sad hinderance to wellness.

    • profile image

      Creativita/Helen 8 years ago

      Thank you for your support of these ideas. It's nice not to be alone in my wish to protect patients. Best regards, Creativita/Helen B.

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      I too have deep feelings about this proposed practice and its practitioners. It sounds Orwellian.