Fortunately, most medical practitioners have responded to the boom with much zeal. It is not uncommon to find many a Net–savvy doctor include his e–mail ID on his visiting card these days. However, the older generation of medicos still remains wary of the new revolution. Perhaps, they are still to come to grips with its impact and make their own assessment of it, before they throw in their lot with their younger colleagues who have been “Netted” already.
An oncologist who practices at a leading hospital is of the view that Indian doctors have benefited from access to the Web, as it has enabled them to keep pace with the latest advances in their own area of specialization. Although the numbers are still miniscule, says he, it is only a matter of time before more take to it to upgrade their knowledge.
One of the leading Urology consultant feels, given the large number of patients who have access to the Net these days, doctors are left with no choice but to “Log on” to keep pace. On the flip side, a leading medico points out that several patients surf the Net for solutions to their health problems, and approach their doctors armed with these questions, and seek an easy explanation for everything. The problem he contends is that since the lay person fails to comprehend medical jargon many crucial facts get misinterpreted or misunderstood.
Keeping this in view, a prominent authority on such matters has some useful suggestions to offer to doctors. They are as follows:
Doctors are advised to warn their patients about the uncertainty of the quality and reliability of any information they might stumble upon on the Net.
Doctors must request their patients to e–mail any information they might gather to the former much before their visit.
Doctors need to be humble enough to make allowance for valid information their parents might bring to their notice, something they themselves might not have come across yet.
There is no denying the fact that there is a wealth of medical knowledge already on the Net that medicos could ferret out, and benefit by. Several health–related websites focus on specific topics. Given the easy accessibility to several medical journals doctors could browse through, a vast treasure house of medical information is just a click of a mouse away, if our medical practitioners would only care to look. Although online medical journals need to be subscribed to for an entire article, e–mail alerts could be obtained on a weekly basis.
Personal Websites Vs Advertising
Lack of time and inclination has prevented Indian doctors from putting up their own websites as part of a larger data base like it’s done in places like the US. Hosting individual websites may help shed light on the specific help on specific cases a doctor might have handled. Unfortunately, very few have taken the plunge in India as things stand now.
A vital medico–legal issue that needs to be addressed, when it comes to hosting a website is the question of “self–promotion”. Medical ethics permit a doctor to issue a public notice only when he sets up practice or has been away for at least a period of three months. Hence, while hosting a website is an effective tool by which a doctor could disseminate information, it is still debatable whether a website is ultimately viewed as “Advertising” or merely “Disseminating information” from the legal standpoint.
To conclude, although our own doctors have still to be bitten by the cyber bug, they would have to come to terms with having to fix their appointments with patients on the Net, in the not so distant future!