The telephone has been used as a tool for delivering healthcare since 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the device. In fact, the very first telephone call was also the first telephone call for medical assistance after Bell spilt sulphuric acid on his clothes.
Not long after its appearance, physicians were answering the telephone even during consultations with other patients in the room, which, today, would breach patient confidentiality. The Lancet then proposed a rule that “calling up the doctor on the ‘phone should be limited to urgent cases”.
As the 20th century evolved, however, the Lancet insisted that practitioners must make themselves available by telephone.1 In 1906 there was an entry in the Lancet stating how a man had phoned his doctor for professional advice and when the patient was billed for the advice he refused to pay. On the question of whether or not it was proper to consult by telephone, the judge ruled that it was the doctor’s duty to decide whether he might safely give further instructions by telephone provided he had previously seen the patient.