Friday, September 09, 2011

Why I feel it is unethical for a doctor not to have their own website

I met a doctor yesterday for whom I have high regards . He is extremely competent ; patient-centric and compassionate. I was talking to him about the importance of using patient education tools and websites for delivering Information Therapy.

He had a completely different take on things . He felt that a lot of doctors use these tools as alternatives to actually sitting down and talking to the patient. He was aware of doctors would actually cut short the consultation by telling the patient – Go, take this brochure – it will tell you everything you need to know and then we can go ahead and schedule your surgery”.

Though I haven't met anyone who actually does this , I do agree that this is an abuse of patient education tools. The technology is meant to complement and enhance doctor-patient communication skills - not to replace it.

When I asked him why he didn't have his own website , he was very critical about doctor’s websites in general and felt that they were primarily used as marketing tools and did not do a very good job with educating patients about facts. He had the same criticism about brochures as well / “They're created by the marketing department of the hospital , and paint a very glossy picture without really addressing the patient's key concerns”.

What he's saying has a grain of truth. But what he also forgot to realize was that the reason for the sad state of affairs is because good doctors like him were not willing to take the time and energy to actually create their own brochures and create their own websites !

While doctors like him do a great job with dealing with patients one-on-one , they also need to realize that they are a major bottleneck because they only have a limited number of hours in a day and cannot see too many patients. What happens to all the others ? How can they benefit from his experience and expertise ? Is it fair to deprive them of access to the facts ?

Doctors can use technology to amplify their effectiveness , so that they can reach out to many more patients and provide them with the unvarnished truth , to help improve the quality of healthcare for everyone. I think doctors who fail to do so are actually being unethical , and not fulfilling their responsibility to society .

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2 comments:

  1. Good posting about the need for doctors to provide information to their patients but I don't think the term 'unethical' is the best choice for those choosing not to have their own website.

    Patients do need some printed material on website links they can refer to about their condition and any planned procedure. The shock of being told things in the doctor's office is usually enough to make even the brightest patients complete forget everything they are told when seeing the doctor. I like providing some information in my office by videos running with subtitles in the waiting room, talking with the patients, brochures produced by my medical association as opposed to drug or surgical companies. I like to tell the patients to please look over the print material and web information before their next visit then write down questions for next time. This is NOT dismissing them from being too lazy....it is the reality of them not remembering most anything they are told in the office as they are in shock.

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  2. I have deliberately chosen this word because I do believe that in this day and age, it's not ethical for a doctor not to use all the tools at his disposal to proactively teach patients.

    Don't forget that the word doctor is derived from the word "docere" - which means to teach. This is one of the doctor's core responsibilities - towards his patients, and towards society as well !

    If a doctor can have his own telephone, then why can't he have his own website ?

    Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD
    Medical Director
    HELP - Health Education Library for People
    Excelsior Business Center,
    National Insurance Building,
    Ground Floor, Near Excelsior Cinema,
    206, Dr.D.N Road, Mumbai 400001
    Tel. No.:65952393/65952394

    Helping patients to talk to doctors !

    Information Therapy is the Best Prescription - www.informationtherapy.in !

    Read over 20 health books free at www.helpforhealth.org

    Read my blog about improving the doctor-patient
    relationship at http://doctorandpatient.blogspot.com/

    Join India's first health wiki at www.myhealthpedia.in

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