Why expert patients are the best patients

I work hard at maintaining my technical skills, so I can continue to offer my patients the best care possible. Just like my patients expect me to be an expert, I expect my patients to be experts as well. In fact, I suggest that they do their homework before coming to see me—and in between visits as well. This is good for them, and it’s good for me, because informed patients often have a greater chance of clinical success.

Expert patients are better patients because:

  • They have more realistic expectations
  • Together we are well informed partners focusing on their clinical problems
  • They refer other patients based on a knowledgeable experience
  • We maintain a professional relationship based on the right protocols

Patients who have done their homework tend to have more[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()] realistic expectations of their treatment, which is important in most types of medical practices and especially in my IVF referral practice. These patients understand that no matter how good of an IVF doctor I may be, the success rate is never going to be 100%. If an IVF cycle fail does fail, the patients have a clear understanding of the process, which helps them understand what happened.

“Patients who have done their homework tend to have more realistic expectations of their treatment, which is important in most types of medical practices.”
-Aniruddha Malpani, MD, medical director of Malpani Infertility Clinic in Mumbai, India

When patients take the time and effort to become experts, their knowledge helps me maintain my expertise and professional edge as well. Because these patients are well informed, they keep me on my toes by asking challenging questions, which I do my best to answer. Expert patients and expert doctors can create a positive cycle, which allows both of us to keep improving.

Key Point: Expert patients tend to be great patients because they have done their homework and know what to expect when receiving treatment. It’s important with these patients to respect their knowledge while also setting boundaries and directing them to evidence-based information to inform their decisions.

Of course, I do have to draw the line sometimes with expert patients. I am the doctor, I am responsible for providing the medical treatment, and it’s my job to inform patients so that they don’t make a treatment decision that could cause them harm—no matter how expert they may be.

When I have expert patients whom I know enjoy researching medical topics and updates outside of our office visits, I make an extra effort to do the following:

  • I provide them with listings of Web sites that I have approved because they are sources of reliable, current clinical information.
  • If they are reading materials intended for physicians, I ask them to come to me with any questions rather than leaping to conclusions due to the depth of this specialty information.
  • I make sure they know the difference between evidence-based protocols that are supported by numerous clinical trials and guidelines and experimental treatments that haven’t yet been demonstrated to be safe or efficacious.

As part of my professional responsibility as a doctor, I also create and provide patient education tools to enable patients to learn for themselves. While it does take time, effort, and resources to create these tools, once they have been created, they can be used multiple times to help many patients—which makes them a very cost-effective investment of my time and energy.

Aniruddha Malpani, MD Dr. Malpani is medical director of Malpani Infertility Clinic in Mumbai, India, medical director of the HELP-Health Education Library for People, and author of a physician and patient education blog. He is an angel investor in Plus 91, which offers customized Web sites for doctors.


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