Monday, May 23, 2011

Promoting Information Therapy in India

The Indian healthcare system has become sick. Doctors are illness experts –not healthcare experts . India just cannot keep up with the increasing demands the ever growing population puts on the healthcare infrastructure . The only effective solution is to empower everyone in the healthcare ecosystem with Information Therapy . The right information at the right time for the right person can be powerful medicine !

However, this is still a very new concept in India. When people talk about the problems facing healthcare in India, the focus is primarily on the shortage of doctors – and how we need to invest more money in training new doctors. While opening new medical colleges is very profitable for politicians ( which is why they do this all the time), this does not address the underlying issue at all. More doctors just create more demand for medical services – and much of this medical care is unproven, unnecessary and expensive !

HELP has taken a completely different approach. We have focused on empowering the patient with information, which is why we started India’s first patient education library over 10 years ago. As time progressed, we realized that this was not enough – we need to work on the entire ecosystem in order to be able to fix the problems.

There’s no point in educating patients if their doctors do not have access to reliable information as well . In India, the tragedy is that doctors will rarely bother to keep uptodate. They usually depend upon their friendly medical rep to keep them abreast of the latest advances in therapeutics – and they will attend a few conferences sporadically , to learn about what’s new. However, given the rapid advances which take place in medicine, their knowledgebase becomes woefully inadequate very soon . Most continue to refer to their outdated medical textbooks – and very few will invest in buying new editions of text books or medical journal subscriptions. This is why our next step was to provide the MDConsult database – the world’s largest online medical library , with over 100 full-text medical books and journals, to Indian doctors, at half the price doctors in the US pay for this.

We then realized that while many Indian patients are online looking for information, Indian hospitals do not have much content which is of use to them. Look at the contrast between the Apollo Hospital and Mayo Clinic websites , for example ! Our next initiative has been to tie up with Healthwise, USA, the market leader in providing online patient educational content , so that Indian hospitals now have access to affordable and reliable content for their websites.
We have also realized that there is a major shortage of graphic content designed for Indian patients . This is why we have invested in PEAS, the market leader in making patient-friendly content for patients in India. We feel this market is now set to boom, as more and more patients demand reliable, easy to understand educational materials from their doctors and hospitals.
While there are millions of Indian patients online, where are all the doctors ? We have invested in Plus91, to help encourage doctors to publish their own websites. We have made this process easy and inexpensive, so that every Indian doctor can establish their own digital clinic. We hope this will help to set up a positive virtuous cycle.

There’s still a long way to go . Our next action steps are to invest in companies which provide e-learning courses for patient education; mobile smartphone apps for educating patients; and companies which will create materials in Indian regional languages – a completely untapped, but huge market !

These are exciting times – and we are happy to be playing such an active role in this transformation !

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