Why information therapy is a powerful prescription for patients

My patients, Mr. and Mrs. Gupta, are sitting in the waiting lounge of my in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic, waiting for their appointment. The usual array of consumer magazines is in front of them. But could the time they are spending reading about the most recent Bollywood movie or holiday recipes be put to better use?

Aniruddha Malpani, MD“The beauty is that once you have produced information therapy materials, you can use them many times, for many patients, and over many years.”
-Aniruddha Malpani, MD, medical director of Malpani Infertility Clinic in Mumbai, India

My receptionist gives them a comic book about IVF to read instead, so they can learn more about their treatment options. This informative, engaging information puts them in a better frame of mind, and many of their questions are answered and doubts get resolved even before they meet with me. The beauty of information therapy is that it can be presented to patients in many innovative ways.

As an IVF doctor, I put my heart and soul into treating my patients. IVF is often the last resort for infertile couples, and understandably, they often have numerous questions. This is an expensive treatment, and they are investing significant time and energy in the hope of building their family. Since the outcome of IVF is always uncertain, patients can also have a number of doubts and concerns.

I proactively use information therapy to help clear these doubts and answer questions. This approach helps ensure that everyone is on the same page. Patients are reassured that I am open and transparent. They learn that I am not only knowledgeable, but able[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()] to communicate that knowledge to them in an understandable, approachable way.

mdCurrent Pearl: Information therapy is a modern way to educate patients through creative publications, online media such as videos, Twitter, Facebook, and your clinic’s Web site. You can also use this approach to direct patients to other credible sources of information available online. Information therapy can help you educate patients and address any doubts that they have prior to meeting with you, so that you maximize your appointment times.

Information therapy

No matter what type of medical practice you have, information therapy needs to be embedded in clinical workflow. We start providing patient education information well before the patients come to us for a consultation. We do this online, using many channels, including our Web site (www.drmalpani.com) ; videos on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/user/aniruddhamalpani); and social media, including Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/drmalpani) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/Dr.Malpani).

Web-based information prescriptions have major advantages:

  • The information can be updated information quickly and easily.
  • The information is accessible to patients in your area and around the country and even the world; using Google translate, patients can read the information in many different languages.
  • The information can be presented in an interactive and engaging manner through the use of animation and videos (www.ivfindia.com).
  • Delivering the information does not cost anything (compared with printing and mailing other types of patient education materials).
  • Patients can absorb and review the information at their own pace—and for free.

You may be asking: Isn’t all of this expensive to produce? Who has the time to do all of this? Yes, it does require time and resources, but the beauty is that once you have produced information therapy materials, you can use them many times, for many patients, and over many years.

“Create once, use multiple times” is a very cost effective proposition. Updating and maintaining content is much easier once you are familiar with the process.

Engage patients

Encourage patients to contribute to your online resources by sharing their personal experiences. For example, we have a section on our Web site called Success Stories (http://www.drmalpani.com/success-stories.htm). We request that patients write about their infertility stories and experiences at Malpani Infertility Clinic and then upload the narrative to our Web site.

These types of first-person accounts help other infertile couples when they are making decisions regarding their treatment, as they are getting information from someone who has been there, done that.

Guide patients

The Internet has become an important source of health and medical information. However, a significant amount of health-related information on the Web is inaccurate, unreliable, and/or untrustworthy. By creating your own content, you can direct patients to information that is high quality, appropriate to their conditions, and consistent with your approaches to treatment.

This approach also saves patients time and keeps them from getting confused or misled. Patients still depend on doctors to provide the most credible answers to their health questions, even in the Internet age, and this is one way to do that.

In addition to providing information therapy online, we also provide it in the office. When patients come to the clinic for a consultation, we give them the IVF comic book mentioned earlier while they are waiting for an appointment. Thanks to this information therapy, my consultations have become much easier. I do not have to waste time going over the basics and can focus quickly on patients’ key concerns.

All of our educational materials help ensure that patients have realistic expectations about treatment. Patients often forget a great deal of what is told to them. This is why we give them a DVD to take home, which they can review at their leisure—often with other family members. This process helps to reinforce my message, and it also ensures that we stand out amongst the other doctors that they have visited.

During and after the IVF treatment, we encourage patients to remain in touch by email. I find this to be a very efficient way of answering questions. This way, we don’t have to play telephone tag—and since everything is in writing, patients are less likely to get confused or forget things. We also have a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page on our Web site, which helps us to proactively reassure patients and put many of their doubts to rest.

Approaches to learning

We know that different patients have different learning styles, which is why we use a myriad of tools to deliver information therapy. On our Web site at www.ivfindia.com, we have developed a wide variety of educational tools, including e-learning courses, animated cartoon films, games, and You Tube movies.

Providing this kind of information therapy has helped me become a better doctor. It ensures that I look at the world through my patients’ eyes, so it is easier for me to be empathetic and to understand what they need and want to know.

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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