Friday, September 07, 2012

Why books are sometimes better than doctors

When people fall ill, they go to the doctor and rely on his expertise and skill to help them to get better. The doctor is a trusted expert; and has the professional knowledgebase and skills to assist them.  This was the traditional model, and usually worked quite well.

There are lots of problems with going to a doctor. For one, most are very busy. It may take weeks to get an appointment with the one who has been highly recommended ; and even if you do get to meet him, he may not have enough time to sort out all your queries.  Consultations can be stressful  - and patients will often forget what  their doctor tells them. Also, many find doctors intimidating, as a result of which they are scared to ask questions or challenge the doctor’s recommendations ( even if they do not agree with his advise, very few patients will tell a doctor to his face that they do not see eye to eye ! )

Sadly, many doctors are very poor communicators.  They often use jargon; and the more highly specialized they are, the narrower their worldview.  Some may have allowed their skills to atrophy because they are too busy attending conferences and giving lectures; while others no longer bother to keep updated . Many look at patients through a distorted prism; and are often keen to push the particular procedure is which they specialize ( whether or not the patient really needs this !) Many have a vested interest in advising interventions, even when masterly inactivity may be a better option. Most are not transparent; and will often overpromise within the four walls of the clinic.

However, times are changing, and patients are not willing to blindly trust their doctor any more. While they value their doctor’s expertise, they also want to verify that his advise is sound. This is why Dr Google has become so popular ! It’s not that patients have become cynical – it’s just that there are additional resources they can now tap into. Smart patients are making clever use of these !

Books ( and websites) offer lots of advantages. If the book / website is published by a reputed company, the reader can be fairly sure the information is reliable. Books are usually written by experts, who have a lot of experience and knowledge and are happy to share this.  Books do not lie – after all, if a reliable source ( such as a brand name hospital or  the government) puts up inaccurate information on a website, they’d be forced to correct this very quickly.  Finally, books usually do not have a vested interest , and are far more likely to provide reliable, unbiased, updated information.

The information on a website can be shared, as can a book . You can discuss it with friends and trusted family members. If a family member is a doctor or nurse, she can vet the content ; help you make sense of the information you have unearthed; and confirm you are on the right track .

The information can be re-read and digested at leisure. You can explore cross references and hyperlinks, so you can get a much better perspective of the entire problem. This will help you have realistic expectations of your chances and your choices. Because books and websites are written for the layperson, they are much easier to understand.

Because you have lots of time and there is no pressure, you can explore what interests you in depth. Since there is no censoring on the web, you can expose yourself to differing viewpoints, so that you can select what makes the most sense to you. And let’s not forget, this is much cheaper than going to a doctor !

Of course, there are problems with books and websites as well ! Books can get outdated, so you do need to make sure you have the latest edition. Also, they are not interactive , so sometimes it can be hard to get accurate information  for a specific question. Also,  not all books are well written ; and some can be hard to make sense of.

Websites also suffer from their own sets of problems. Many are not reliable; and some are purely commercial, whose only purpose is to sell their product, which means their information can be slanted and biased.

In reality, both doctors and books are complementary and not competitive – and smart patients learn to make the best of both worlds.  Everyone has different learning styles; and because learning is an iterative process , there will be times when doctors are more useful; and others when books are invaluable.

How can my patients make the best use of my services ? Before coming to me, I encourage them to read our book, How to Have a Baby , which is available for free download on our website. Once they have done so, they will find that a consultation with me is far more productive, because I can explain to them how the information applies in their specific case. Finally, after the consultation, they can go back and review the book, so they have a much better understanding of their treatment procedure.


  1. How many hits your blog gets everyday? Amazing!!! 7 years of dedication and you have updated your blog everyday!!! Great going Dr! Your blog is a treasure of information. Thank You very much!

  2. Dear Manju,

    We get about 1000 visitors daily

    I enjoy writing - and do it because it's fun :)

    Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD
    Malpani Infertility Clinic, Jamuna Sagar, SBS Road, Colaba
    Bombay 400 005. India
    Tel: 91-22-22151065, 22151066, 2218 3270, 65527073

    Helping you to build your family !

    My Facebook page is at

    You can follow me on twitter at!/drmalpani

    Watch our infertility cartoon film at

    Read our book, How to Have a Baby - A Guide for the Infertile Couple,
    online at !

    Read my blog about improving the doctor-patient
    relationship at

  3. We enjoy your writing too : ) Never stop keep writing.

    "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life"- I am sure you are never working!!! : )

  4. Thanks for sharing such a useful information, i will be checking your blog for further information's and updates near in future.

  5. Very useful information, i will be checking your blog for further updates.

  6. Books are always better it's keeps you refreshing.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing such a very useful information for everybody

  8. Great going Dr! Your blog is a treasure of information. Thank You very much!


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