March 15, 2020

Creating an ‘information portal’

 

In the absence of a capable regulatory authority that oversees price setting on private healthcare services and medical malpractice  – could technology be the answer?

 

 

This article explores the notion of creating a pool of reliable medical information or an ‘information portal’ on private health care services which patients can access. While websites like Practo in India already offers doctors the chance to advertise their services and invite reviews on their private practice for a subscription fee, patients can look for doctors based on this information. However, experiences of malpractice or good practice stops at the private doctor or small practices and does not cover private hospitals or larger medical institutions.

 

As we are aware, there are significant issues that  exist without a reliable medical information portal. At this point, there are no publicly available criteria on how prices for medical services are set. Furthermore, there are several negative patient experiences which include doctors prescribing more tests than required to treat illnesses, incorrectly diagnosing an illness which resulted in a worsening of patients’ medical condition or death, incorrect hospital  hygiene procedures which resulted in increased patient illness or death, medical indifference and a lack of sensitivity when treating patients, extremely long wait times  versus short  treatment  times for  patient appointments.

 

 

Access to a reliable pool of medical information will  empower patients seeking to make informed medical decisions.

 

 

 

What would reliable medical information look like?

 

Patients  would share their medical experiences through a comprehensive list of survey questions. This would look like a comprehensive product or service review seen on Amazon or TripAdvisor and the questions could be tailored to encourage comprehensiveness. This information would be published online for other patients to access. Patient reviews can be upvoted based on usefulness by other patients. These reviews plug into the law of large numbers in information economics which implies that if more patients are saying the same thing on a specific medical service then it must be true.

 

This is not to state that there will be no accounts of  doctors or hospitals that have contributed to positive patient experiences. Such patient reviews would also be  reflected on the information portal.

 

There are a few problems anticipated – firstly, fake reviews could undermine or defame  the reputation of a doctor or hospital – a reliability report  assessing the quality of each review in view of evidence provided and the manners in which questions are answered could accompany each review. An algorithm needs to be devised which tests the reliability of each review based on survey questions answered and other clues that technology can provide. It would also account for bias in these reviews which users of this information can readily see.

 

Secondly, patients choosing to share their experiences enters the realm of privacy violation and a revealing of private information.  A process of legal checks and balances should be put in place to enable users  to understand the implications of using this portal and the privacy measures in place when contributing to this pool of information.

 

Thirdly, medical professionals and institutions would sue to have such an information portal taken down, if it is against their interests. A possible solution is to invite them to answer survey questions related, for instance, to the prices they provide for services and patient success stories related to their professions and institutions. These accounts would be accompanied with their own reliability reports ,disclaimers and an option for user upvotes.

 

Patients can then choose to compare both sources i.e medical accounts and patient reviews to base their medical decisions on. This would definitely precede visiting a doctor or hospital based on a hunch. Mainly, it should serve as a preventive measure against various instances of medical misconduct which has plagued private health care in the past few decades.

 

Lastly, it is unclear if such an information portal  should be managed like Wikipedia or as a subscription service like Practo. The implications of funding such an information portal needs to be explored further. Questions that arise are who is funding this portal and how is such a portal being managed? These questions are especially important if the reliability of information is at stake.

 

The journey to reliable information access is not an easy one and this article does not aim to cover all the implications of having a medical information portal. However, it is a step in a positive direction. Information can be a powerful tool  and can be valuable to patients who genuinely need it.

 

 

 

 

 

When lifetime savings go in the treatment
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About Azania Thomas

Azania Thomas

Azania Thomas has had an interesting journey in international development. In 2005, she completed an MA in Economics, completed a teaching certification (CELTA) and worked as a PR and Capacity Development executive for an NGO in Mumbai . In 2007, she moved to Mexico City, where she worked as an English language teacher and Economics Lecturer for 5 years. She felt her work would have more meaning for marginalised populations in developing countries. She returned to India and began work as a training consultant for the British Council’s education programmes in 2012. In 2013-2014, she studied at the University of Edinburgh, where she completed an Msc in South Asia and International Development. Since 2016, she have been working as an education consultant for a number of British Council projects. Lately, she has had a growing interest in issues affecting health care in India and is exploring connections between skill development and healthcare. When she is not spending her time engaged with issues in the international development world, Azania spends her time painting and developing her fine artcollection. Enclosed is her picture.

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