Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Doctors as bottlenecks

When most people talk about trying to improve the efficiency of the healthcare system, they focus on training more doctors; or creating a cadre of "barefoot doctors" to improve healthcare services. While this viewpoint is correct, in that it recognises that a shortage of doctors ( and other healthcare personnel) is a major bottleneck in improving healthcare services.

However, I don't think trying to train more doctors ( or nurses or physician assistants) is an effective solution. Why don't we focus on teaching patients ( and family members) on how they can take better care of themselves. BY leveraging information technology, we can multiply the efficiency of individual doctors, so that they no longer function as bottlenecks.

Here's an example. Infertile women need to get some basic blood tests done to check the quality of their eggs as part of their workup. However, in order to get these tests done, they often need to wait for 4-8 weeks to get an appointment with a specialist ( an RE). After getting the appointment, the RE orders the tests - and then they need to wait to get a second appointment to discuss the test results ! Why can't we shortcut this by allowing patients to order their own tests, so they save their time - and that of their doctor ?

In collaboration with MyMedLab, we now offer infertile couples in the USA a chance to get their blood tested for the five key reproductive hormones - FSH,LH,PRL and TSH, and estradiol. This test, usually done on Day 3 of the cycle, gives us an excellent idea of their ovarian reserve, and helps them to formulate the right treatment plan.

We feel this is an innovative way to help patients to cut down on their medical costs and saves them time and money !

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