Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wiki Ways - Health Education Library For People

Wiki ways

An internship at Harvard Medical School back in the 1980s provided the inspiration for in-vitro fertilisation specialists Aniruddha and Anjali Malpani to set up a library in Mumbai in 1997, solely dedicated to a range of health and wellness titles. While some of the books from the collection, which is updated once in two months on average, are available online, the doctors are now expanding their reach further by creating a health wiki, where they ask both medical professionals and patients to share reference material, case studies and even survivor stories. In an email interview, Aniruddha explained to Arati Rao why he thinks the idea of “patient education” is something Indians will latch on to.
What made you start a health library?
When I went to the US as an intern in Harvard Medical School, I was very impressed by the amount of educational material available for patients. Often, patients knew more about their medical problem than the doctor did – and this was quite an eye-opener. We set up Malpani Infertility Clinic in 1990 and started collecting educational material for a free library at my parents’ clinic at Om Chambers [in Kemps Corner, Mumbai] in 1997. We now have over 10,000 books at the Health Education Library for People. I buy new books all the time, so we renew our collection by weeding out old books and replacing them with new titles.
What made you decide to take the library online?
When the internet first came to India, we used it primarily to acquire information for our readers. We realised there was very little India-specific information available on the net, and decided to correct this problem by creating our own website, We are also working on developing educational materials in Indian languages for the web at
With so much information now available on the internet and health publications, what advice would you give to people who are prone to self-diagnosis?
I think we all do this – whether or not we explicitly realise it. You are the one who has to decide whether your headache is severe enough that you need you to go to a doctor, or if it’s something you can handle on your own. By acquiring authentic information, you can make these decisions in a much more intelligent way.
Do you think hospitals, especially some of the bigger ones that can afford it, should have a library or some kind of reading room?
Yes, I feel all hospitals should have their own patient education resource centre. This is a win-win situation for everyone. Each patient who is admitted in a hospital has lots of queries about his treatment, as do his relatives. Sometimes doctors are too busy to answer them, which creates a lot of unhappiness and resentment, especially when a complication occurs. A busy doctor can refer the patient to the library with an information prescription, where a nurse or librarian can help them find answers to their questions. This saves the doctor’s time – and improves the quality of care as well. A patient education library can also help to solve the commonest complaint patients have about doctors – that they make them wait. Instead of just waiting aimlessly, patients can read books and brochures at the library to help them learn more about their problem, so they can make better use of the doctor’s time. For instance, Mayo Clinic in the US [in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona] has an entire building devoted to patient education – and the American body Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations insists that the accredited hospital document the fact that their patients have been educated.
Alternative medicine therapists also contribute to the Experts’ Panel section on the website. Wouldn’t disseminating information about more proven systems of medicine be more important?
We try not to censor information. Just because I am an allopathic physician does not mean that I believe that western medicine has all the answers. Our approach is to provide information and treat each person as being intelligent enough so they can select what works best for them.
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Source : Time Out Bengaluru ISSUE 22 Friday, May 14, 2010

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