One of the first projects I got involved in, after joining CSC in Chennai was a education portal for a major US based Health Insurance company. The portal was essentially targeting the African American Community and addressed the common health issues for that ethnic group.
So why was a Health Insurer spending so much time and money on educating its members? Well the intentions though altruistic were not without financial benefits. The insurer wanted this particular set of members to be aware of the common ailments affecting their community so that they could take corrective action. This would reduce the incidents of them visiting hospitals and making a claim that the insurer would have to pay.
Interestingly if we look at the amount of education material out there in the west put out by insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies its mind numbing. One starts to wonder what the Indian healthcare firms are doing?
To seek answers to this question and to get a better perspective I came across an interesting site called Patient information and education trust (PIET). The site is the brain child of Dr Aniruddha Malpani. Dr Malpani had practiced abroad and on his return to India was appalled at the level of patient education available in India. He is an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) specialist and was used to patients looking online for medical content. but when it came to India there was hardly any content available.
“The situation is worse when it comes to vernacular languages” says Dr Malpani, “for example the only medical education in Gujrati language is from the NHS and not from any of the Indian firms”
As I looked back at the data available I came to the Johnson & Johnson website called “Baby center”. This site is very informative but is a J & J site that has been rolled out globally.
So why don’t Indian healthcare firms invest in patient education?
According to Dr Malpani all nursing homes, chemists and clinics should have a small self service kiosk with patient information. And I agree with him. surely it does not cost much to do this and India has the technology to implement such a scheme.
In my opinion most healthcare players in India have a short term vision of who a patient is. They probably don’t think it is worth their time to educate the patient parties on the perils of ignoring the initial warning signs of a condition.
Investing in patient education is a long term strategy and firms need to look beyond the short term gains. For example PIET has a tie up with the Global leader in Health education called “Healthwise” and all PIET does is customize the content for Indian market.
In conclusion I feel preventive care as a concept depends on the right and timely health information and education. So it is up to the Industry to implement this and reduce the burden on the existing health infrastructure in India.