Medical communication in the 21st century


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Medical communication in the 21st century

  1. 1. ← Home | Page 12 | Page 21 MedicinMan January 2013 Medical Communication in the 21 Century st Dr. Neelesh Bhandari ealthcare has been changing in drifts and shifts over the past few centuries. The drift can possibly be pinned from 1600s when medicine came to be widely accepted as an expertise separate from religion. The subsequent centuries saw us drifting into a scientific understanding of disease and its causes. The first dramatic shift came with the discovery of antibiotics in 1930s. We now had pills which could cure giant killer diseases and this led to the rise of a new behemoth, the Pharmaceutical industry. With regular discovery and later inventions of newer drugs, power seemingly concentrated with the Physician- the drug dispenser. The healthcare ecosystem settled into a physician centric system, with the doctor exercising complete power over the patient and all other stakeholders revolving around the doctor. This was always an unstable ecosystem because of the power imbalance among the stakeholders and the coming of internet has upset the traditional positions irrevocably. The internet was the second major shift. Tim Berners-Lee (father of Internet) made the biggest financial sacrifice in recent times when he refused to patent his hyper text transfer protocol and instead threw it open for the Aam Aadmi. Ordinary people used this new found power of instant low cost communication in wonderfully diverse ways and healthcare social media was born. People realized the power of information and sought more of it. This new communication platform totally changed the way healthcare stakeholders talked to each other. Lately, the patient has taken his rightful place as the center of the new healthcare ecosystem, with all other stakeholders working to woo that customer. The recent regulations regarding generic medications will only strengthen this new position. Since patient, and not the doctor, will now make the purchasing decision, all stakeholders in this ecosystem (Pharma, labs, hospitals) need to reconsider their strategies and focus on the true consumer. Many savvy entrepreneurs have already smelt the coffee. Now, many stages of healthcare services can be accessed online. You can track your health using Smartphone apps and websites. When unwell, you can check your symptoms to arrive at a presumptive diagnosis online. It‟s easy to search for a suitable physician in your geographical area who you might want to consult. Compare rates and services at various hospitals. Book your appointments. Receive your lab reports and prescriptions in the comfort of home. Join social support groups and get information about alternate treatments or therapies. Store all your health records digitally and get second opinions from anywhere in the world. Doctors can monitor their patients remotely and even tweak treatments from a distance. They can discuss treatments and obtain referrals in secure online platforms. The effect of Internet and social media is just too huge to be ignored. To borrow an analogy from Jed Weissberg, MD, Senior Vice at Kaiser Permanente, the Choluteca Bridge is a metaphor for today's healthcare ecosystem. The Choluteca Bridge was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1930 with design strength to withstand the worst of hurricanes that affected the area. When Hurricane Mitch came in 1998, it destroyed 150 Honduran bridges, but not the Choluteca Bridge. Instead, the storm rerouted the Choluteca River. This rendered the huge, strong and beautiful bridge useless as it served no purpose in the changed environment. The true potential of healthcare social media has not even been scratched on its surface yet. The focus on cloud computing and Big data can work wonders in the field of medical communications. At Digital MedCom solutions, we currently tag 25,000 Indian physicians via weekly emails and popular social media platforms. Our aim to have an active social database of all 500,000 practicing Indian physicians (or at least the approx. 250,000 active onliners) within the next 2 years is not as farfetched as it may seem. All the stakeholders in healthcare, except the patient, seem to be ignoring social media at present. Unless steps are taken to remedy this inertia, traditional pharmaceutical industry is destined to go the Choluteca Bridge way.▌ Dr. Neelesh Bhandari is the founder and Chief consulting officer at Digital MedCom solutions, India‟s first healthcare social media agency. You can contact him via email ( or Twitter (@edrneelesh).