When the late William Edwards Deming - an American statistician, professor, author and consultant - said 'In God we Trust, all others bring data' - we are not sure which side did he count the Doctors.
We have learnt (and have been trained) to trust our Doctors - and we usually don't care about the data. A European doctor visiting Delhi several years ago as part of a short 'exchange program' happened to spend a couple of days at the OPD of a Doctor in a government hospital. Observing the unimaginable patient pressure and the prescription patterns of anti-biotics, he wondered if we might be better off making anti-biotics part of our water-supply. Hardly do we ever register, as we go through this journey - called life, our frequency of taking anti-biotic courses, or for that matter other medicines that could have long-term negative side effects
In a casual conversation during a morning walk with a General Physician that I came across - the Doctor spoke of having to base his treatment entirely on symptoms. Rarely did he have the opportunity to view and get into patient's medical history.
And then there was this (late) mother of a close friend, who was getting treated for chronic arthritic pain for decades (literally) by a GP in the vicinity. Trust in the doctor, and the medication dispensed by him, was so complete that the angelic lady and her family never felt the need to know the actual medicines she had been on. A group of specialists treating her for renal failure (towards the last stages of her life) wished - if they could have details of all the medicines she had consumed over years.
Popping a few pills prescribed by our doctors, and not having to bother about anything else - is the simplicity we all would ideally want in life. The bad news however is - the world around us has changed, and so have our expectations.
The pace of change technology has brought in our life over the past decade is unprecedented. The way we communicate, learn, entertain, engage, and in general get-things-done - keeps undergoing a paradigm shift every couple of years. Surprisingly, and unfortunately, healthcare has largely remained unaffected by these changes. The familiar scenario of a patient walking up a doctors clinic - in the best case, with a bunch of papers - has largely remained unchanged. Invariably, the patient ends-up taking chemists help in understanding - what medicines should be taken at what time. Doctor's consultation record/ prescription - needs an interpreter - the local chemist.
Do you think technology must be leveraged to modernize healthcare? I look forward to your opinion.
(to be continued …)