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

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What is Information Therapy?

Information Therapy is the prescription of the right information, to the right person, at the right time to help make a better health decision. This information cannot be just generic information, so much of which is easily available online. In fact, easy access to so much information at the click of a button has made both doctors and patients highly sceptical about the usefulness of this information in real life. Excessive information has resulted in information smog, causing greater confusion and uncertainty, since a lot of it is unreliable and misleading.

Information Therapy refers to prescription-strength information, tailored to the patient's needs. Such information cannot just be of theoretic value - it must result in a tangible good. It should help the patient make better decisions. So what do we mean by the 'right' information? Who decides what is right and what is wrong?

The right information needs to be evidence-based; approved by experts; up-to-date; easy to read and understand; available indifferent formats(local languages and audio visual formats); and referenced. Producing such high-quality information is not a walk in the park. We underestimate the cost and complexity involved in doing so. This is one of the reasons why there is such little quality information available in Indian regional languages - no one has invested the time and the trouble to create this as yet, since they still do not see the value in doing so.

The right person means that this information needs to be delivered to the patient (and his caregivers), who will make (or help in making) the decision (or behaviour change).

The right time means it should be provided when the patient needs it - just in time to help make a better medical decision (or to improve a health behaviour).

There are many ways of delivering this powerful tool. Information Therapy can be clinician-prescribed, system- prescribed, or consumer-prescribed. At present, most patients get information through their own research. However, they are often not knowledgeable enough to conduct searches that provide valuable results. Ideally, the information should be prescribed by doctors - but this is likely to happen regularly only when they get paid for this! The good news is that hospitals and health insurance companies that systematically implement Information Therapy applications will be in a better position to gain market share, profitability, and prestige over those that do not. They will hopefully start doing so routinely because it makes business sense for them.

Healthcare is changing and we now have to deal with a rapidly evolving ecosystem. It may take us some time to get there, but we can learn a lot from what is happening in the US today. The healthcare system there is under a lot of stress, since they have empowered consumers (who demand time, information, control, and service) and embattled doctors (who are burnt out and resentful because they are starved of time and poorly compensated). There is a new focus on quality that promotes safer medical care and a move towards pay for performance; a new way of validating what works and what does not in medicine (the science of evidence-based medicine); and technology to reach out to consumers - thanks to the Internet, which connects anyone, anywhere to top-quality information 24x7. These drivers create a compelling case for Information Therapy - a new approach to healthcare that revolves around an expanded patient role.

The future of healthcare will emerge in the following ways:

  • Every clinic visit will be preceded or followed by Information Therapy prescriptions.
  • Every medical test and surgery will be preceded and followed by Information Therapy prescriptions.
  • Every hospitalization will engage patient and family support through Information Therapy prescriptions.
  • Information prescriptions sent between in-person visits will extend the continuity of care.

Information Therapy is a very cost-effective solution that allows the healthcare industry to adopt the long-promised shift to patient-centered care. As Kahlil Gibran said, 'Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.' Information Therapy is the future - and in India, using our medical and IT expertise, we can outdo the rest of the world and become leaders in this space. This book explores how Information Therapy impacts all players in the healthcare ecosystem - patients, doctors, hospitals, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and the government - and how it can help all of us.

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