Superheroes are people with superpowers who go whizzing around the streets, skies and seas saving innocent people from the bad guys. By that standard, doctors are our superheroes too.
They save people in their battle against diseases, and injuries, give a new lease of life to the sick and wounded, treating them using the latest and best in the world of medicine, and helping them heal and recover with ease. In this battle, technology has become a doctor's latest ammo.
It has added an exciting dimension to healthcare and changed the way doctors, and patients interact, making digital and human aspects pivotal to the entire experience to get well.
The superhero with a white cape has leveraged technology to his advantage, and for the good of patients. Nowadays, it is common for a doctor to jot down patient details on his I-pad, or desktop, and take a print to prescribe medicines or advice tests to be undertaken at big hospitals.
It keeps the patient's medical records safe and sound, and easily accessible from anywhere, anytime. But not just that, technology has made it easier to book an appointment, review, and change, if need be, and in some cases look up for reviews before choosing a particular doctor.
“The gold standard remains to see the patient and advise a future course of medical action. But it may not be humanly possible to visit a doctor, and technology comes to rescue in such cases.
It has made it easier for both patients and doctors,” says Lt Col Dr Abhishek Pathak, who also runs www.cancercure.care, a free online platform for cancer patients and their families to seek the second opinion on all aspects of the dreaded disease.
“The process to seek my opinion through the website is easy. All that one has to do is create an account, and start asking queries. One can also upload reports to seek diagnoses and treatment plans via computer or smartphone,” Dr Pathak explains.
Appy to serve
For those looking to consult on the go, there are hundreds of health apps doing the rounds, that can be downloaded on one's smartphones, and be used to book an appointment, chat with doctors, buy medicines and health products and also book diagnostic tests.
“These apps make it easy to access a medical practitioner, seek advice, without having to visit a clinic or hospital, for a minimal cost, thus saving a lot of time, energy and money.
It also allows one to read health articles, and know more about medicines, book diagnostic tests, ask free health questions, and also check doctor's credentials, and patient reviews online to make an informed choice,” says Gupteshwar Prasad, 67, a Practo freak, who prefers online consultation to clinic visit for convenience sake due to old age.
Dr Rajesh Koradia, Obstetrics & Gynaecologist and Infertility Specialist, and Director of MIRA Hospital in Mumbai couldn't agree more. “These days people want everything on their fingertips.
Apps and websites are being helpful and serving our purpose. Online consultation is as good as a personal consultation. A patient can ask all their questions and resolve their queries from wherever they are, and whenever they want.
It works well for both for doctors and patients,” says Dr Koradia, who also does video conferencing while he is travelling to solve patients' problems, and queries. This readiness to be available for a patient when required builds trust.
Word of caution
Dehradun-based personal success coach Jaswinder Grewal who offers counselling and consultation on WhatsApp, and Skype, advises caution when it comes to using the net for seeking medical advice though. "Internet has invaded our lives.
We are getting aware of anything and everything that affects our lives. This applies to the medical world as well. We know more and more about diseases and the procedures, which in turn, has changed the doctor-patient relationship," she says.
Earlier, the doctor was the main source of information about a patient's diagnosis and treatment, but now the patients procure information from the net and act more as a partner in their own care, which on a positive note could be considered as taking the responsibility of oneself.
“It improves the doctor-patient relationship as smarter patients equal better patients,” she opines. But the downside is that all information found on the internet is not reliable. Sometimes, this overdose of information creates confusion and chaos in the line of treatment.
“If the patient comes with some half baked knowledge, then it becomes difficult for the doctor. But the doctors need to be more patient here and offer an accurate explanation to save the situation,” she advises.
No doubt, the internet and apps have helped patients in many ways. "Internet-based consultations can act as double-edged swords for doctors and patients both.
If the wrong edge cuts, we may spoil our fingers. A lot needs to be done for proper use of internet in developing a good doctor-patient relationship,” says Dr Harshad Limaye, Internal Medicine, Nanavati Super Specialty Hospital, Mumbai.
He agrees that information available at virtually no cost is always welcome but it should be correct information and even more important is that the information should be read and assimilated in correct context by the patient or his relatives.
“This is where we have a problem. The patient should verify the source of information to be a scientific one and preferably from government authorities or medical bodies. Random sources specifically social media quotes shouldn't be trusted blindly.
More important is the second part. If the correct information is taken in the wrong context the consequences could be troublesome. Patient education regarding these matters is very important, and a lot needs to be done in this regard,” quips Dr Limaye.
A patient can thank technology for giving the much-needed superpower to the doctors but, as they say, more than the medicine, it’s the conversation and touch of a doctor that heals a patient, and nothing can beat it.