Sunday, January 15, 2006

Helping patients to become better patients

Society has traditionally spent millions on educating doctors and nurses so they can learn to take better care of patients. While this is important, I feel it is equally important that we shoud be spending money on educating patients, so they can learn to be better patients ! In fact, I feel CME ( continuing medical education) programs are of little value. Good doctors will keep themselves updated and will always practise medicine competently and efficiently. Bad doctors, on the other hand, will never improve, no matter what we do. This is why I feel that a lot of money spent on re-educating doctors would be better spent on educating patients ! Unfortunately, patient education seems to be no one's baby, as a result of which it is a releatively neglected area. This is a shame, because the potential cost-benefit ratio is huge ! For the investment of a small amount of money, it's possible to improve the healthcare millions of patients receive. We can teach patients how to talk to doctors; how to judge the quality of the care they are receiving; and how to get a second opinion. The tools to do this are easily available - they just need to be used more widely and effectively ! Patient education resource centers and libraries should be an integral part of all hospitals and clinics - even if it is only an internet terminal with a nurse or librarian to help patients make sense of the information they unearth.
This is one of the reason why we run HELP. I feel patients represent healthcare's largest resource - and they have been untapped so far. If we can make intelligent use of patients, and help them to make use of their intelligence, everyone will benefit !

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