As the Deseret News/Intermountain Health Care Hotline marks its second anniversary, the free program is credited with having an important impact on people's lives.
"We've had some wonderful feedback from our reading public," said Dr. Greg Schwitzer, medical director for IHC's Salt Lake Valley hospitals - Alta View, Cottonwood and LDS hospitals. "In some instances our program has actually resulted in saving patients' lives or improving medical care."In the hotline program, medical experts answer telephone questions.
The first hotline, on Aug. 8, 1992, was on pediatrics. Since then, the toll-free number has drawn 1,250 telephone queries from several states and throughout Utah. It operates on the second Saturday of every month, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"We've covered 24 topics that have ranged from heart disease to back pain to breast cancer," Schwitzer added. "That's a lot of wonderful medical information that's flowing to the public."
He praised the two organizations for providing needed information for the public.
Sometimes, lives are literally at stake. For example, Schwitzer said, during a recent hotline about depression, a suicidal woman called.
"She was in her bathroom ready to swallow a bottle of pills; (she) needed some help very desperately." An expert from LDS Hospital stayed on the line with her, then helped the woman make contact with a crisis resource specialist.
"Because of that interaction, the woman's life was probably saved," he said.
During the hotline on breast cancer, a woman called who had a strong family history of the disease.
"She should have had mammograms," he said. However, until then, the woman had not undergone the procedure because she had incorrect information about its risk.
"The physician (on the program) gave her the correct information and eased her fears about the procedure, and she scheduled an appointment for a mammogram." The woman also received information about the importance of self-examination.
As the program heads into its third year, Schwitzer noted, it's impossible to know all of the good it may do.
Many readers who don't call may benefit from the medical facts published in the subsequent Deseret News articles. "You can never predict when a piece of information may cause a person to take an appropriate action," he said.