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USING INFORMATION THERAPY TO PUT PATIENTS FIRST
( By Dr Aniruddha Malpani )

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Promoting Information Therapy in India

Information Therapy is an idea that seems so simple and obvious that you might wonder - why do we need a book on this? Doesn't every doctor educate and inform his patients? Do we really need a new buzzword for something that is so basic? The tragedy is that Information Therapy, despite being an unbelievably simple concept, is not implemented routinely today - hence the need for this book.

It is commonly argued that the primary problem concerning the Indian healthcare system is the shortage of doctors, and the need to invest more money in training new ones. While opening medical colleges is rather profitable for politicians, this does not address the underlying issue. More doctors create more demand for medical services, and much of this medical care is unproven, unnecessary, and expensive. Too many doctors can lead to overtesting and overtreatment - and not always to better medical care!

Our initiative, Health Education Library for People (HELP), has adopted an innovative approach. Conceived over ten years ago, it is India's first patient education library. Our website, www.healthlibrary.com, focuses on empowering patients with information. As time has progressed, we have realised that the entire ecosystem needs an over haul to fix the underlying issues that plague healthcare in India. We have adopted the following holistic approach to tackle this complex challenge.

If doctors themselves do not have access to reliable information, then how much good can educating patients do? In India, the tragedy is that doctors rarely bother to be abreast of the latest advancements in healthcare. A majority are content with depending on their friendly medical representative and attending conferences sporadically. With the phenomenally rapid advances that occur in medicine on a regular basis, their knowledge base is shockingly confined to outdated medical textbooks. Few invest in buying new editions of these textbooks or subscribing to medical journals. This is why our next step, in partnership with Elsevier, the world's largest medical publisher, was to provide the MDConsult database (www.thebestmedicalcare.com/mdconsult) - the world's largest online medical library, with over 100 full-text medical books and journals, to Indian doctors, at half the price that US doctors pay.

We also realised that while many Indian patients spend hours online sorting through masses of information, much of the content provided by Indian hospitals is devoid of any real value to the patient. An example of this is evident in the sharp contrast between the Apollo Hospital and Mayo Clinic websites! Our next initiative has been to collaborate with Healthwise, USA (www.informationtherapy.in), the market leader in providing online patient educational content, so that Indian hospitals now have access to affordable and reliable content for their websites.

We have also realised that there is a major shortage of graphic content designed for Indian patients. This is why we have invested in PEAS (www.peasonline.com), the frontrunners in developing patient-friendly content for patients in India. We feel this market is now set to boom, as more and more patients demand reliable, easy-to-understand educational materials from their doctors and hospitals.

While there are millions of Indian patients online, where are all the doctors? To address this, we have invested in Plus91 (www.plus91.in) to help encourage doctors to publish their own websites. We have made this process easy and inexpensive, so that every Indian doctor can establish his or her own digital clinic. We hope that this will help set up a positive cycle.

The road ahead is still a long one, but one that's filled with promise. And our ultimate goal, a patient-friendly, high- quality Indian healthcare system makes the journey all the more worthwhile. This book is one step in that direction. These are exciting times, and we are happy to be playing such an active role in this transformation!

 
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