Doctor is God! If you are born in India, you must have heard this at least once in your lifetime. I’m not sure if any Holy Scriptures propagated this belief and even if they haven’t, it’s not difficult for anyone to arrive at it logically.
When we think of God, we also think of virtues that defines the ‘God’. These virtues make us have a blind faith that God can take away our misery & heal our problems. And we all have stories in every religion where Gods have taken away pain, sickness and restored good health. Well, as doctors we are trained to treat sickness. So aren’t we the “qualified Gods” albeit mortals?
If you are a doctor, I can guess what you must be thinking right now. Don’t we read so many cases of outburst or violence against doctors by patients? How could someone do such things to their God? Has something changed drastically in today’s world?
Like our relation with God, patient’s relation with us is based on foundation of trust. This trust assumes that all our actions will be in patient’s best interest and that we will listen to them when they have something to say or explain to them patiently when they need to understand their outlook clearly. Here lies the difference. Unlike Gods who don’t answer or respond, we can. And that makes us accountable for our actions.
But what has changed the focus on doctors from being responsible for good outcomes to being accountable for not so good ones? According to me, and we can argue for sure, it’s the change in patient’s behavior towards their healthcare since last few years. All of us are experiencing that today’s patients are far more proactive in managing their health than ever before. They want to be part of decision making and demand much more information about their conditions, options and outlook. They want to be equal contributors in their outcomes as we do. Isn’t it a good change?
Certainly! Because it indicates that patients are ready to share accountability towards their outcome with us. If patients become accountable for their outcomes, can there be an unreasonable or irrational outburst? Probably not! Now this changes the complexion of traditional doctor patient relationship, wherein doctor remains to be God, but patient gets evolved into a powerful character, just like a King! This reminds me of the famous response of king Porus to Alexander after the battle of Hydaspes - Treat me as a king would treat another king! Are we ready to treat patients like kings? Am sure we all have realized that it’s not an option any longer. So how doctors can embrace this win-win change?
In my perspective, informing patients adequately about every aspect of their healthcare is a key to make them accountable in their outcomes. Thousands of citations on PubMed emphasize that patients who are well informed by their doctors have better outcomes. According to National Institutes of Health, (NHS) UK, ‘an informed patient is better placed to make decisions about their care and well-being, and manage changes in their health status. Information gives people the power and confidence to become partners in their care’. But doing such ‘information-intervention' on each patient takes time, and time is something which most doctors don’t have in abundance!
Is it possible to spend more time with our patients than we normally do? I know that may not be an easy call to take and there may not be a universal solution to adopt. But if we look around us, we may already have a solution in abundance, in the form of internet. In fact, internet statistics tell us that 80% of internet users search for health information. 1 According to Google, 1 out of 20 searches made are on health information.2 Patients develop beliefs, make opinions and modify behaviors based on the information that they consume on internet. So where patients can’t get answers from their “God” internet becomes their “Angel”!
However, patients can’t differentiate quality of information that internet provides to them as good or bad, right or wrong, anecdotal or evidence-backed. That creates an opportunity for doctors to leverage power of internet and use it to offer reliable health information to their patients in a personalized manner. Think of a simple solution. Imagine creating a website or a mobile app for your practice where patients can find credible health information curated from world’s best resources, get answers to their common questions & doubts regarding their health condition, watch patient education videos & consult with you remotely & securely from comfort of their home.
www.AboutMyClinic.com is one such platform that lets any doctor irrespective of technical skills or any clinic or hospital irrespective of its scale, set-up their own responsive and informative website in just few minutes. The website comes equipped with high quality health-information repository which is made up of content curated from world’s best medical resources and presented in patient-friendly language and formats. Doctors can add his own patient-education resources to enrich this repository further. This makes doctor’s website a comprehensive virtual-information assistant for his/her patients. Patients can also ask questions, consult remotely, send enquires or book appointments through doctor’s own website and track all communications through secured patient account. Not only this, doctors can use AboutMyClinic.com to automate & personalize day to day updates for patients & peers ensuring continuous education & engagement.
With the massive rise in use of smartphones & adoption of internet in India, traditional practice dynamics are nearing a tipping point where active information-intervention of patients from their doctors will emerge as a norm for sustainable patient engagement and practice success.