Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Get the best medical attention when your doctor is off duty

WebMD Magazine - Feature

Cross Coverage

Most people probably don't give much thought to their doctors' free time. But how exactly do they manage busy patient loads and still have weekends and vacations? The answer can affect you and your family's health and well-being.

Many physicians belong to a "coverage group": One physician temporarily takes care of all of the group's patients. So from Friday evening until Monday morning -- almost 40% of the hours in a week -- your medical care may well be in the hands of a physician other than your primary doctor.

What do patients need to know about cross coverage?

Hospitalized Patients

Many relay races are lost by a poor handoff of the baton. So, for hospitalized patients and their families, the key issue is ensuring a smooth transition of care over the weekend. As a patient, you are entitled to know that there is a well-informed "captain of the ship" on board at all times. So be sure you know who this is -- ask ahead of time.

Over a weekend, the covering doctor becomes the surrogate for the primary doctor and the chain of command remains intact. In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion writes brilliantly about her ordeal dealing with the illnesses and deaths of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and her daughter, Quintana. When I asked Didion for her thoughts about cross coverage, she mentioned that she felt reassured by seeing her primary physician's name on John's medical bracelet when he was in the hospital. The label symbolically tagged her husband as being under the protection of a respected doctor who was ultimately calling the shots.

"I don't know why but this point about the bracelet matters. So much in a hospital happens in the fog of war that you want at least a symbolic line of command, legible to everybody who happens into the case. More often than you might think, the patient's relatives are left to catch up a new doctor on some key point."

What should you and/or your family ask your doctor before the weekend rolls around?

  • Who is the covering doctor and what is his or her specialty?
  • What time does the doctor make rounds?
  • Who is on the team? Aside from the covering doctor, who else will be seeing you over the weekend -- interns, residents, fellows, specialists?
  • Who is making the decisions? This may NOT be the covering doctor in certain settings such as intensive-care units.
  • Does the covering doctor have the contact information for the "point person" family member in case urgent communication is necessary?

Latest Health Reform News

Loading …
URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices