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Received medical advice by phone, past 2 weeks

Codes and Frequencies

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PHONEMED identifies persons who received medical advice about their health through a phone call with a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional during the past 2 weeks.


At the beginning of the survey section related to Health Care Contacts, which included this question, interviewers consistently (1997-forward) provided the following instructions:

These next questions are about health care received during the 2 WEEKS outlined on that calendar. Include care from ALL types of medical doctors, such as dermatologists, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, and general practitioners. Also include care from OTHER health professionals such as nurses, physical therapists, and chiropractors. DO NOT INCLUDE DENTAL CARE.

A section of the Field Representative's Manual for 1997-1998 and 2001 forward that defined terms related to doctor visits in the past 2 weeks, provided the following clarification about "telephone calls to or from a doctor or assistant for the purpose of discussing the health of the person":

Count the telephone call as a doctor visit for the person about whom the call was made. For example, if the wife calls the doctor about her husband's illness because he is too ill to call himself, count the call for the husband, not the wife.

This statement was not routinely shared with respondents.


The question wording for this variable differs between 1997-1999 and 2000 forward.


In the first period, interviewers asked,

During those 2 weeks, did [you/anyone in the family] talk over the phone with a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional about a member of this family? Include phone calls for medical advice, prescriptions or test results, but do not include phone calls to make appointments.

In 2000, interviewers asked,

During those 2 weeks, did [you/anyone in the family] get any medical advice or test results over the phone from a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional? Please exclude any baby born since [date of beginning of interview week]. Do not include phone calls to make appointments, for billing questions or for prescriptions refills.

After summarizing the change in question wording for this variable, the "Notes" in the Codebook for the original NHIS public use files for 2000 state, "These changes apparently affected responses; thus the original NHIS output variable name was changed and users are cautioned that this may impact comparability over time.

One other small change was put in place beginning in 2001. The directive to exclude any baby born during the interview week was dropped, because, as the 2001 Codebook "Notes" explain, "Babies born during the interview week were deleted by the CAPI instrument in the Household Composition Section."


  • 1967-1996: All persons who reported any doctor's visit in the last two weeks
  • 1997-2013; 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018: All persons.


  • 1967-2018