Sunday, July 06, 2014

How patients can protect themselves from unnecessary surgery

Knee replacement surgeries have become very common in India, and many surgeons specializing in the procedure are said to be particularly knife happy. In India, the surgery can cost Rs 3-4 lakh including the implant, which alone would cost Rs 1 lakh or more.

This is a thorny problem . Patients need to be able to trust that their doctor is giving them  the right advise - advise which is in their best interests - not his !

However, if they are always going to be suspicious of the doctor's intentions ( " Is he advising surgery because i really need it or because he wants to make more money ? "), this is going to impair their ability to get better. They cannot keep on trying to second guess their doctor !

Let's accept the fact that surgeons have a natural bias towards doing surgery. This is completely natural and does not mean that the knee replacement surgery he recommends is unnecessary .  Also, doctors can have different opinions - and it's not always true that the non-surgical approach is always the right one.

The correct answer depends upon many factors - and the most important one in situations like knee replacement is patient preference. We  need to empower patients with Information Therapy , so they can make the right decisions for themselves , in partnership with their doctor.

Two patients with exactly the same degree of joint degeneration and the same level of pain may come to completely different decisions as to whether knee replacement is right for them or not.  One may be a jet-setting CEO, who wants to continue to be able to play pain-free golf daily; while the other may be a retired professor, who is happy ambling about in his garden !

Information Therapy can come to the rescue ! Healthwise Decision Points can help patients think through the pros and cons of doing surgery, so they can discuss the options intelligently with their doctor. This creates a win-win situation for everyone.

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