Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How infertile patients can make sense of online information

When infertile women try to do their homework on the net, many get thoroughly confused. Some get lost, because there's so much information out there, that they don’t know what to read. What’s even worse is that often the information on one website is the diametric opposite of  what another website says, and they don’t know whom to trust. They can’t make sense of what they read, and many just give up in frustration, preferring to take the path of least resistance. They feel that ignorance is bliss, and that it’s much easier to just leave everything upto the doctor – after all, he the expert and isn’t this his job ? Aren’t you paying him big bucks for his expertise ? Why not trust him and  let him make all the decisions ? Why waste time trying to countercheck on them ? Doing so just eats into their time, and corrodes their trust  in the doctor – and when they try to ask questions to clarify their doubts, this just ends up irritating the doctor as well.

It’s true that patients get confused as a result of online information , but this just means that the information is of low quality and is confusing. The solution is not to give up, but to find good quality information.  Well written information will clarify, not confuse !

A lot of information which is published online is not trustworthy because it is contaminated by a hidden agenda, where someone is trying to sell you something. Other  information is  dense and poorly written because it's written by a doctor who is confused himself, and who then ends up confusing the patient as well. This is true during a consultation with this kind of doctor as well,  when the patient is often left with more doubts and uncertainty at the end of the visit as compared to its start !

It’s the quality of the information and how it’s presented which will decide whether the patient who reads it will get confused or enlightened ! Just like a good school teacher can help to make even a complex subject like calculus fun and exciting; and a bad teacher can make any subject dry, dull and boring .

If doctors want to educate their patients, they need to remember that they need to start from where the patient is – from the basics. They need to think back and remember what they learned in school from their best teachers – teachers who made learning their subjects interesting, because they were passionate about the topic ; knew a lot about it ; and could transmit that knowledge painlessly .

Doctors too need to start learning how to teach. We need to adopt modern teaching tools , such as videos , e-learning and graphic comic books, to get information across to our patients .

I tell my patients that if you find you are confused after visiting a website or after talking to our doctor, the fault lies with your doctor, not with you ! Communication is a two-way process, and it’s the job of the teacher to make sure the message being delivered is as crystal clear as possible. If the doctor cannot do a good job, that’s because he doesn’t know how to teach ! However, patients often underestimate their intellectual abilities, just like students do. Many students feel that if they cannot understand a particular topic, it’s because they are dumb or stupid, while the reality is that they cannot grasp the subject because their teacher is not good at simplifying it and explaining it.

If I was teaching you how to cook French dishes, and gave you the recipe in French , you would be able to figure out the general scheme, but you would not be able to make sense of it. You might end up concluding that you were dumb , and would never be able to master French cooking. However, if I took the time and trouble to translate that same recipe into English, you would know exactly what's going , and be able to follow it easily !

The good news is that there’s now lots of high-quality , well-produced accurate information available online for patients today, so that it’s become much easier for you to do your homework . Even better, if you are willing to be patient and take your time searching for a clearly written website, you will get better at understanding what’s happening to you during your infertility journey. It does get easier over time as you master the skills – and this is a worthwhile investment of your time and energy !

Need help in making sense of information on IVF ? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at www.drmalpani.com/free-second-opinion so that I can guide you better !

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