In days gone by, doctors were the sole experts in the medical field. They amassed vast knowledge from their fat medical books as well as their experienced professors. They burned the midnight oil, underwent scores of exams and achieved the coveted medical degree that gave them authority in their field.
They attended medical conferences, shared information and their experiences with colleagues and expanded their horizons. When it came to medical diagnoses, their opinion was the last word. Patients blindly believed and had faith in the diagnostic capacity of their doctor and questioning him or lodging a complaint was something no patient would dare to do. That was in the past; today, this landscape has undergone a sea change.
Medical advances are taking place at a dizzying pace and it’s just not possible for doctors to keep up with them. Most leading doctors have specialized qualifications, and are very knowledgeable about their special area of interest. However, like all experts, they are more microscopic in their knowledge- they know more and more about less and less! For example, a gynecologist would know a lot about infertility, but might be clueless about the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as SLE.
Paradoxically, patients are becoming more proactive and know more about their illnesses and treatment options. Thanks to easy access to various online resources, they are now becoming experts when it comes to their illness. They also learn from other expert patients and are able to pose intelligent questions to the doctor, during the course of the consultation.
Many patients will have consulted different doctors and have been to different clinics; they have firsthand experience with the treatment procedure, which also makes them well-informed. For example, a woman who has failed an IVF cycle is quite knowledgeable about IVF treatment details.
Well-informed patients are a boon
In effect, many patients become experts on their own problem. While I consider this to be a positive change, some doctors believe it to be a bane. They feel that medicine is the exclusive domain of doctors and that it’s never possible for patients to become real experts. They look upon well-informed patients as a threat and feel that their medical authority is being challenged by inquisitive patients.
I feel that well-informed patients can be a boon to medical practice, as they help the doctor to put his best foot forward! Doctors can benefit from these insightful patients, who can help them to offer the best treatment options.
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