Thursday, November 24, 2011

How can we clean up the corruption in the medical profession ?

The Hindustan Times has run a great series of articles which document the unethical practise of giving cuts and kickbacks within the medical profession which is rampant in Mumbai today.

I am happy they have documented this practise. This was an open secret, which everyone was aware of, but preferred to sweep under the carpet. I am glad they have create awareness about how harmful this can be . We can no longer ignore this elephant in the room, and this is the first step is tackling this pernicious problem - talking about it, rather then pretending it does not exist.

However, the problem with such articles is that they sow the seeds of mistrust in the doctor. Patients are now likely to treat their doctor with suspicion. Is he advising surgery in my best interests ? or his own ?

My major criticism about these articles is that they do not provide solutions - and often end up up making a bad situation worse. Patients feel helpless and powerless - and start treating all doctors as crooks. Doctors start getting defensive - and if you treat someone as a crook, he will soon start behaving like one ! Is this the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy we want to achieve ?

Sadly, patients cannot differentiate good advise from bad advise - and some of them may end up saying no to surgery which they really need - causing a lot of unnecessary harm and suffering. Also, these articles end up making the doctor's life more difficult as well. Trust is an integral part of the doctor-patient relationship - and if this eroded, it's very hard to repair.

What's even worse is the fact that the silence from our medical associations is deafening. Where are the leaders in the medical profession who should be standing up for the doctor - there don't seem to be any left !

The truth is that patients are not powerless ! They can learn what is appropriate medical advise and what is not. It's important for them to trust their doctor - but the doctor needs to earn this trust - and patients need to verify that their doctor's advise is sound.

I feel a simple solution to help clean the Augean stables would be to make sure every doctor has their own website. Websites will force doctors to be transparent. They can publish their fees openly, so patients are confident they are not being overcharged or taken for a ride. These websites will allow patients to comparison shop - so they can make the right choice for themselves.

The truth is that patients doctor shop all the time - why not help them to do so intelligently ?


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