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"The role of the doctor today also now includes helping the patient navigate the information and interpret it. A Google hit doesn’t mean that from a clinical point of view it’s best for the patient."

CATHARINE BERWICK, HEALTH MANAGEMENT EXPERT, PA CONSULTING GROUP 

Doctors and patients: ‘More like a conversation between equals’

Jane Bird
Financial Times
27 June 2011

PA health management expert Catharine Berwick is quoted in the Financial Times Life Sciences special report. Catharine gives her view on the changing relationship between patient and physician. Instead of just going to the doctor when we feel ill, many of us are first searching the internet for diagnosis and cure as well as checking the performance of clinicians and institutions.

Catharine says: "People research the capability of doctors before going to see them. They want to be treated by the doctors with the best results."

Catharine says that making performance data about doctors and medical institutions transparent to the public is a significant change in recent years. It informs patients about the quality of care they can expect and the introduction of revalidation in 2012 for doctors working in the UK will provide further information about their fitness to practise.

Catharine goes on to point out that the internet provides an endless supply of medical data and young people are not the only ones familiar with this way of obtaining information: "There are significant numbers of silver surfers, and, as the group with the highest incidence of long-term conditions, they are the main consumers of healthcare."

Catharine maintains that health information should be seen as an opportunity for the professionals, not a threat. Public purse strings are being tightened round the world and citizens are taking more responsibility for their healthcare. In the UK, GPs are talking about transparently approved care plans which do not remove the doctor’s responsibility, but enable the patient to be involved in discussions. And in the US there is a drive to encourage patients to be prudent consumers and make cost-effective choices in healthcare. Catharine says: "The role of the doctor today also now includes helping the patient navigate the information and interpret it. A Google hit doesn’t mean that from a clinical point of view it’s best for the patient."


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