Paris welcomed the annual conference on social media in the medical field Doctors 2.0 & You for its fifth year running. The event, founded by e-marketing and social media specialist for healthcare Basil Strategies, holds the title as the first conference in the world to promote patient participation. Selected patients were invited to moderate tweetchats and Google Hangouts as ePatients, offering a "patients-included" concept that supports the event’s name
An abundance of events, courses and speeches on digital strategies and social networking attributes the event its ‘the place to be’ caption. One of the guest speakers, Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, a leading IVF doctor in India, has much experience in the matter. In addition to his daily blog, Malpani Infertility Clinic India launched Google app My Fertility Diary in 2014. This free application helps patients manage their IVF treatment. It is currently available for smartphones using Google, while the Apple version is under production. Dr Malpani tells us more about his thoughts on the use of the Internet in the medical field and his own personal involvement.
MedicalExpo e-mag: You have been spending a lot of time using the Internet to interact with patients, when do you think it can really be useful?
Aniruddha Malpani: The Internet can make a big difference if patients are willing to do their homework and doctors are generous enough to share their information with everyone. I honestly think this is what the future holds for everyone. Patients are the largest untapped health care resource and doctors need to be able to tap into them with the information that they [patients] need. They [patients] have the time and energy to find out what they need to find out in order to get better and they trust their doctors, but they find it very frustrating when doctors are very busy or tired or because they have too many patients to see.
If health professionals are not able to answer the patient’s questions, this creates a gap between the doctor and the patient and actually drives a wedge in the doctor-patient relationship. That’s not good for the doctor or the patient because trust is the key ingredient in making sure that the patient gets better. Trust is valuable for the doctor because it’s a very therapeutic tool and it’s important for the patient because he then has peace of mind that the doctor’s doing the best he can for him.
ME e-mag: Still, many doctors see the Internet as a problem or a threat.
AM: I think part of the problem is that patients get confused and lost when they go online because they don’t know which sites to trust. Sometimes doctors get irritated when patients come with tons of irrelevant information found online. I think if doctors stepped up and understood that their role as teachers was to educate their patients, not necessarily just one-on-one in the clinic as they’ve been doing through the generations but using a great platform like the Internet which allows them to reach out to so many more people, they will find that the ability to impact people’s lives positively will increase tremendously. This can give a lot of job satisfaction to doctors because doctors are ultimately healers and we entered the medical profession to help people get better.
I think doctors will need to learn a new set of skills in order to use the Internet as a platform, but doctors are pretty smart people and are capable of doing this. I think, of course, one of the problems for the gap is poor health literacy. Patients guesstimate their ability to understand what’s happening to them and they sometimes put their doctors on pedestals. Sometimes doctors tend to use medical jargon or, because they have a superiority complex, they try to put their patient in their place by trying to complicate matters. A good doctor will try to simplify matters. I think it’s important that doctors learn to speak the language which patients can understand. The whole point of communication is to get the message across.
ME e-mag: You have taken several steps to improve the information found via the Internet, including but not limited to the My Fertility Diary app, your blog and PEAS. Can you explain your involvement in the educational start-up Patient Education and Awareness Series (PEAS)?
AM: PEAS is a startup which I have funded in order to create educational materials for patients with low-literacy skills. It uses animated cartoons and is available in eight Indian regional languages. This is part of my social impact portfolio and we want this to become self-sustaining so it can be scaled up.