Chapter 21: Do patients have a Right to Information?
The Right to Information (RTI) act has come as major breakthrough in good governance. It encourages transparency, reduces corruption, and inspires citizens to be more assertive about their rights, because bureaucrats are now more accountable to the public. Earlier, some government officials abused their power with impunity. They could easily manipulate the rule book to suit themselves, as a result of which ordinary citizens (who were usually in the dark about their rights) were rendered helpless. However, with the advent of the RTI Act, citizens are now in a position to ask questions . and demand written answers! The official concerned has no choice but to respond with the needed documentation. This has resulted in a healthy respect for the average citizen among officials and bureaucrats, who now think twice about hiding information from citizens.
If Information Therapy was similarly made compulsory, this would help to improve the doctor-patient relationship as well . after all, good doctors have always been happy to share information with their patients!
Good doctors understand the importance of having a well-informed patient and will do all they can in their capacity to provide Information Therapy. Some doctors may not be so proactive, and will require patients to ask for information before they dispense any. In the U.S., progressive health insurance companies are making it mandatory for doctors to keep patients in the loop about any risks or complications arising from their treatment, however small or insignificant. Even better, they are actually reimbursing doctors for dispensing Information Therapy, and this incentive is helping to create a win-win situation for everyone!
There is a great opportunity in India today for the IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) to make the documentation of Information Therapy compulsory every time a patient submits a claim for medical treatment expenses against his or her health insurance policy. This will ensure that patients are kept fully informed, and will also help the insurance company to reduce their expenses, as unnecessary surgery and overtreatment will be nipped in the bud.
Information Therapy need not be restricted to just providing medical facts about an illness. By providing information about local and regional medical facilities; the names of specialists; their addresses; and the services they provide and their costs, it can actually also help to clean-up the medical system.
Its a sad fact of life that medical practice has become corrupt today, because consultants, hospitals, diagnostic labs, and imaging centres give cuts and kickbacks to doctors to induce them to refer patients to them. Information Therapy can help to eliminate cuts and provide a lot of transparency by informing patients about the costs of procedures, where these are available, and the names of specialists in that field . both in real life and online. Armed with this information, patients need not feel powerless, and can easily get second opinions and shop around for more cost-effective treatment options.
By cutting out the middleman, they can get better quality services at a lower cost.