Similarly, I have noticed that when I called a doc 20 years ago for a problem, I could speak to the nurse and she would tell me weather or not I needed to come in to see the doc. No, you don't need to come in, there is a viral infection going around and you have all the s/s, stay home, get rest, drink fluids, and if you don't get better in a couple of days or if it gets worse, call back.
Now, anytime I call the doc with a question or to see if I need to come in, the answer is always to make an appointment. It is rare to get past the girls at the front desk, they just make the appointment. Nowdays, I usually know when I or my kids need to come in or not and if I have a question, I research it myself. It's the ol' Self Service deal more and more ofen these days otherwise I'd be broke from paying all those copays.
Recent examples, waiting a couple of weeks after I begin to have a cough r/t URI b/c the docs won't tx it w/ ab any sooner. Waiting 2 days after my kids get a sore throat b/c a strep test usually won't test pos during the first 48 hours and w/o a pos. test the doc won't order ab, even though the entire PK has strep.
On Friday, the ped ordered ab for one of my twins at twice the dose as the other one was ordered two days before, I didn't realize it until after hours and my doc had another group on call. THe ans serv said a nurse would call me. Well, I decided to find out for myself if there was a reason for this difference in dose. After looking it up, I realized that the doses were correct for the different dg. I can't imagine what a headache it must be for people who do not have a medical background.