I don’t want a TV in my waiting room. Absolutely, positively, not.

I get plenty of letters, calls, and faxes offering me a “free” one. Recently, it’s even expanded to include tablets connected to the programming, so patients can continue watching the same stuff after being taken back.

Still, I’m not interested.

Why? Maybe other doctors would jump at the opportunity, but not me. Visits to the doctor can be very stressful for some people, and I try to keep things as tranquil as possible. Silence, the sound of my secretary on the phone muted by the glass window, the quiet hum of the air conditioner … I think that’s enough.

I see migraine patients, and the last thing they want during a headache is extraneous noise. Likewise, I see a lot of the older crowd with hearing problems. Trying to keep sound down, so they can understand my secretary, helps a lot.

I try hard to run on time, so the wait usually isn’t more than a few minutes. It’s easy to fill that with one of the literary offerings I keep around, and many people bring their own books and iPads anyway these days. I don’t see a need to provide video entertainment.

The choice of programming also concerns me. While they tell me it’s customizable, that still doesn’t mean I’ll agree with everything they show. And since I’m not about to watch it all myself to check, I don’t even want to start.

I worry about the “free” part. It isn’t free. Nothing is. The TV, and tablets, and their programming, are all paid for by advertising. This is primarily from drug companies. While many of them have useful products, those decisions are between me and my patients, not them and a commercial that ends with “ask your doctor.” They’re here for my advice, not to be told what brand-name medications they should be on (which often aren’t covered by their insurance) when a generic I might suggest is better. Advertising often portrays products in an unrealistic light, with the TV leaving me the dirty job of putting a damper on expectations.

And the last thing I want is them seeing a charlatan selling snake oil, using their MD title to give it legitimacy (but I’m not going to name names).

The world is full of medical information sources, and my patients can find them easily without me forcing one upon them. My lobby may be their only quiet moment in a tumultuous day, and I’ll try to preserve that. It’s the least I can do.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz.


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