Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How I prescribe Information Therapy in my practice

My patients, Mr and Mrs Gupta, are sitting in the waiting lounge of my clinic, awaiting their turn. The usual gamut of magazines is in front of them. But do these serve any purpose? Instead, my receptionist gives them a comic book about IVF, so they can learn more about their treatment options. This puts them in a better frame of mind, and many of their doubts get resolved even before they come in. The beauty of Information Therapy is that it can be used in many innovative ways !

I am an IVF doctor and I put my heart and soul into treating my patients. IVF is often the last resort for infertile couples, and, understandably, these couples will have countless questions about IVF. This is an expensive treatment, and they are investing immense time, hope and energy in building their family. Since the outcome of IVF is always uncertain, they have a lot of doubts and misgivings. These are still many myths and misconceptions surrounding IVF, and many women are worried that IVF babies are ‘weak’; or that all IVF pregnancies are multiples; or that the hormonal injections taken for IVF will make them fat or cause them to develop ovarian cancer in the future. Moreover, infertility often impacts the entire family (and not just the couple), and many decisions about medical treatment are made in consultation with all the many family members.

I proactively use Information Therapy to clear doubts and answer questions. This helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. Since I provide this information, patients are reassured that I am open and transparent. They know they are in safe hands, because they can see that I am well informed and knowledgeable. The fact that I am an expert in my field makes them put their faith in me.

Information Therapy needs to be embedded in clinical workflow, and we start providing Information Therapy well before the patients come to us for a consultation. We do this online, using many channels, including our website ( ; videos on youtube ( ; and social media, including twitter (!/drmalpani) and facebook
( .

Web-based information prescriptions have major advantages:
(1) I can update the information quickly and easily.
(2) The information is accessible to all my patients around the world. Using Google translate, patients can read it many different languages!
(3) The information can be presented in an interactive and engaging manner through the use of animation and videos ( .
(4) Delivering the information does not cost me anything.
(5) Patients can absorb and review the information at their own pace – and for free!

Isn’t all this expensive? Who has the time to do all this? Yes, it is expensive and time-consuming, but the beauty is that once you have done it, you can use it many times, for many patients, and over many years! ‘Create once, use multiple times’ is a very cost effective proposition. Updating and maintaining content is much easier once you are familiar with the process.

Even better, you can get your patients to contribute to your online resources. For example, we have a section called Success Stories ( We request our patients to write about their infertility story and their experiences at Malpani Infertility Clinic and then upload this to our website. This first person account helps other infertile couples when they are making decisions regarding their treatment, as they are getting information from someone who has been there, done that! We also encourage our patients to act as email buddies, to help other infertile couples in distress. I always remind my patients that helping others is a great way of helping yourself.

The Internet has become an important source of health and medical information. However, a significant amount of health-related information on the Web is inaccurate, unreliable or untrustworthy. By creating our own content, we can direct patients to information that is of high quality, appropriate to their condition, and consistent with our approach to treatment. This helps them to save time and stops them from getting confused or misled. Patients still depend on doctors to provide the most credible answers to their health questions!

In addition to providing Information Therapy online, we also provide it in the real world. When patients come to the clinic for a consultation, we give them with an IVF comic book while they are waiting for an appointment. Thanks to such Information Therapy, my consultations have become much easier. I do not have to waste time going over the basics and can focus quickly on the patient’s key concerns. The fact that I am an author reinforces their confidence in my professional competence and helps to reassure them that they are in safe hands. Doctor shopping is a fact of life in today’s world, and since we provide this information proactively, our patients prefer coming to us, because they can see that we are open and transparent.

All our educational materials help to ensure that patients have realistic expectations of their treatment. While it is true that our success rates are excellent, it is also a fact that the outcome of any IVF cycle is always uncertain, and patients need to be prepared for failure. Reading about this in black and white helps them to understand the limitations of our technology.

Patients often forget a great deal of what is told to them. This is why we give them a DVD to take home, which they can review at leisure – often with other family members. This helps to reinforce my message, and it also ensures that we stand out amongst the other IVF doctors that they have visited. During and after the IVF treatment, we encourage patients to remain in touch by email. I find this a very efficient way of answering questions. This way we don’t have to play telephone tag – and since everything is in writing, patients don’t get confused or forget things! We also have a FAQs page on our website, while helps us to proactively reassure patients and put their doubts to rest.

We know that different patients have different learning styles, which is why we use myriad tools to deliver Information Therapy. On our site at, we have developed a wide variety of educational tools, including e-learning courses, animated cartoon films, games, and you tube movies. Providing this kind of Information Therapy has helped me to become a better doctor. It ensures that I look at the world through my patient’s eyes, so it is easier for me to be empathetic. Also, because we have ensured that help patients to have realistic expectations, they don’t get emotionally shattered if the cycle fails and they are . They are able to cope better with the unpredictable nature of IVF emotional roller coaster treatment.

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