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Call-In Doctor Visits

Would you pay to talk to your doc on the phone? In a recent poll, 64 percent of you said "no way." But wait  -- what if it's 3:17 a.m. and your baby just woke up feverish and wheezing? The peace of mind you'll get in return may feel invaluable at that point  -- and some day soon you may have no choice.

It's not widespread yet, but some doctors are beginning to charge for those precious minutes they spend on the phone with nervous parents, says Andrew Spooner, M.D., director of pediatrics at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis. Charges range from $10 to $25, depending on what was discussed, the time, and the length of the call. If your pediatrician starts charging, keep these tips in mind:

• See if your pediatrician has a website with answers to frequently asked questions. More and more doctors do, so that you can look online for their advice instead of calling.

• Take advantage of regularly scheduled call-in hours, which may still be free, instead of ringing the doctor at home.

• Maximize your time at each pediatrician visit. Bring a written list of questions so you don't forget to ask anything.

• Before you get in a huff about having to pay for a call, remember that it may be worth it. The $20 you'll spend could save you a trip to the office  -- and the co-pay you'd owe there.