Monday, May 30, 2005

But why do you do that ?

I am an IVF specialist, but I also run a free patient education library in Bombay. This is called
HELP - the Health Education Library for People
and has now become one of the world's largest consumer health library.
This is a free service we provide, because we believe in Information Therapy and that patients need access to information, so they can get the best medical care for themselves, in partnership with their doctor. We spend a lot of money on running the library ( space rental, books, staff salaries, electricity and so on) and a question many people ask us is - Why do you do this ? What do you get out of it ? Everyone feels we must be having a vested interest, and they simply cannot figure out what it is !
I am surprised at how naive they are. There is so much pleasure in doing good and helping someone else with no vested interest ! Isn't that what life is for ? All religions teach the same thing - do good to others - so why can't we put it into practise in our own lives ?
I am financially well off, so why shouldn't I put my money to good use now in my own lifetime rather than donate it to some charity after I am dead and
gone ?
And why should I wait to do good after I have retired ? I live by the philosophy, "Live Rich, Die Broke". Sure, I don't drive a Mercedes, but why do I need to ? One of my friends asked - What's your ROI ( return on investment) ? All I can say is that the emotional income I get is incomparable !
It's sometimes hard to explain to others why we run HELP, and I used to do my best in the past to do so. Now I just feel sorry for them, in that they have not experienced the pleasure which comes from giving to others with no axe to grind.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Using the Web to find the right doctor

The Wall Street Journal reports that increasingly, Americans are using the Web to find the right doctor or research the quality of care at their local hospitals: last year 42% of Internet users with a college degree reported that they have looked for information about a particular doctor or hospital, a sharp increase from just 27% who sought such information in 2002, according to a survey from the nonprofit Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The survey, part of a Pew Research Center initiative that studies the impact of the Internet on families, communities and other elements of daily life, paints an encouraging picture of ever-savvier health-care consumers, who are researching doctors, paying attention to warnings about obesity and poor nutrition, considering entering clinical trials in greater numbers, and taking steps to better manage their health-care costs. Since the survey was first released in 2002, the fastest-growing topics of interest for online health searches include these key subjects: information on doctors and hospitals; diet and nutrition, and vitamins; experimental treatments; health-insurance coverage; and prescription and over-the-counter drugs. The survey is available at www.Pewinternet.org.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Getting over jet-lag

I have just come back from the USA and had to endure a 24 hours journey ( actual travel time of over 16 hours) to do so. It's great to be back home, but coping with jet-lag is always hard to do. I am a poor traveller, but interestingly, this time the jet-lag has been much less. The reason was simple - I just slept through the flight.I napped as much as I could during the flight. The result is that I have now bounced back to normal much sooner than I would have !

It's important to be well-equipped, and to get on the flight with the intention of sleeping through it. This can be hard to do, because airlines keep on plying you with food and drinks to entertain you. It's useful to be well-equipped. Carry your own snacks, so you can eat when you get up, not when they want to feed you ! I found the sleep mask from The Body Shoppe extremely useful - it effectively blocks out all ambient light so you can concentrate on sleeping !

There are now many audio tracks which will help you to sleep, and it's a good idea to carry your own music ( using an Ipod or a walkman) to do so. This helps to block out the ambient sound. I wish the airlines would offer a sleep audio channel to help their passengers sleep well during the flight, so they can get up fresh and well-rested !

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Patients of a different breed

One of the reasons I enjoy my practise is because it's fun interacting with my patients. I learn a lot from them ! For example, one of my patients recently hand-carried her husband's frozen sperm sample with her from the USA in dry ice. I had always thought that in order to transport frozen sperm, one needed a dry shipper which keeps the frozen sperm chilled at minus 196 C. These are big, bulky expensive containers which are hard to get and diffcult to carry. A dry ice box, on the other hand, costs a few dollars, and dry ice is easily available at any caterer ! When I thawed the sample and saw the motile sperm, I was impressed - a new learning experience for me. She was an equine embryologist, and told me this is something they do routinely for horses ! Not only did I learn something new, I was able to educate my other patients about this much simpler and cheaper option as well by publishing this information on my website ! Patients can be the best form of CME - continuing medical education - if doctors are willing to learn from them. I feel this may also be because we are now seeing a different breed of patients - educated , articulate, net-savvy, who can think "out of the box" !
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