Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What patient advocacy can learn from Indian mythology


The 4th Annual HELP conference on Putting Patients First was a great success !

Dr Devdutt Pattnaik gave a great talk on What doctors and patient can learn from mythology. He is India’s leading mythologist – and it’s easy to see why he is in such great demand  as a business speaker. He held the audience spellbound ; and used the story of how the Gods created Amrit ( nectar) as a brilliant metaphor to explain how patient advocates can help bridge the gap between doctors and patients.

You can read the story at http://www.kidsgen.com/fables_and_fairytales/indian_mythology_stories/samudra_manthan.htm

Devdutt pointed out that the gods and the demons did not indulge in a tug of war to extract the nectar – they had to cooperate with each other in order to reach their goal. When one side pulled, the other had to push, and this constructive tension allowed the churn to occur. In order to stabilize the extraction, Vishnu assumed the avatar of the tortoise, who acted as the base .

Similarly, patient advocates have to serve as the patient tortoise, who helps the doctor and patient to work together, so they can reach their common goal.

From the field of mythology, Nrip Nihalani  of Plus91, then took us to the modern world, and suggested that modern information technology and social media could act as the pump to power the churning action ! Patient advocates can use social media to amplify their voice ; and make sure patients can converse with each other efficiently and effectively. The base of every religion is – Help Thy Neighbour – and social media allows us to cut across all geographic boundaries, so patients and patient advocates can transcend traditional barriers and reach out to help each other. Technology can help online communities to help each other more effectively.

Dr Bhavin Jankharia raised a very thought provoking question.  He pointed out that busy surgeons are sometimes not able to spend time advocating for the patient.  However, given their time constraints, does it make sense for specialists to also serve as advocates for their patients ? He asked – If you had to have surgery for a cancer, and had to choose between a technically superb surgeon whose published mortality rate was 10%, but who was rude and uncaring; and a technically average surgeon, whose mortality rate was 50%, but who was superb at caring and advocating for his patients, whom would you select ?

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