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Is your doctor only an 'illness-care' specialist?

Written by Dr Aniruddha Malpani |Updated : March 27, 2014 3:38 PM IST

DoctorDr Aniruddha Malpani, an IVF expert and a vehement supporter of patient advocacy tells us why your doctor might be the wrong person to take care of your health...

Doctors are competent professionals, and can help you to get better when you are ill. However, the problem arises when we go to doctors to help us remain well. Actually, it seems quite logical that doctors should be able to help you with your wellbeing. After all, aren't they experts in healthcare? And if they can help you regain your health when you fall sick, doesn't it make sense that they can stop you from falling ill in the first place? After all, isn't prevention better than cure!

The reason you take your car to a mechanic on a regular basis is to make sure that it doesn't break down. Aren't doctors also supposed to help you make sure your body is ticking properly? Unfortunately, the body is not a machine, and no matter what checks , tests and scans the doctor performs, most of the time we cannot anticipate or prevent medical problems . However, doctors are understandable reluctant to share this information. They are very happy to do annual checkups and screen people, because this is good for their business.

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After all, the number of people who are ill at any given point, and who seek medical care because they are sick, is a small minority of the population. If doctors catered only to the ill, this would reduce the total addressable market for the medical profession! However, if they offer to help healthy people to remain well, then the entire population is a potential customer!

Sadly, doctors are illness care specialists, and not healthcare specialists. They are not very good at being prevention specialists and screening and testing can actually harm your health, for many reasons. For example, a lot of test results will come back as normal and it's a mathematical certainty that the more the tests you do , the more the abnormalities you will pick up. Doctors get excited when they find these abnormalities, because they can then start "treating" them. However, most of these are "false positive" test results, of no clinical important. However, once a test result is reported as abnormal, a healthy person starts becoming part of the 'worried well'.

Of course, once you get embroiled in the entrails of the health care system, it's hard to come out of it intact. You will be shuttled from one specialist to another and referred for increasingly expensive and painful tests and scans. Doctors are experts, and cannot afford to "miss" an abnormality. This becomes a negative vicious cycle, where every little shadow on a scan and every little test result which falls out of the normal range need to be investigated and explored. A completely normal person gets converted into a patient and creates more grist for the medical profession.

In reality, most doctors are hardly models of good health themselves. Many are obese; don't exercise; and smoke and drink. They are hardly good role models of health, so please keep this in mind the next time you think you need to go for a medical check-up to remain well! There are lots of books which document the uselessness of screening and most of the advise which a doctor should give you is stuff which your own grandmother would tell you ( if you were willing to listen to her !) It's simple common sense eat properly; exercise regularly; and don't smoke or drink . Do you really need to spend money to go to a doctor to hear this?

The author Dr Aniruddha Malpani is an IVF specialist who is also very passionate about improving patient knowledge and patient-doctor relationships. He is a pioneer in the field of information therapy the right information at the right time for the right person and blogs at

Also read Dr Malpani's other articles on doctor-patient relationships, patient advocacy and healthcare:

  • Why I criticise doctors
  • What does a doctor mean when he says: 'I don't know'?
  • Why do doctors disrespect patients?
  • 15 tips to make your doctor's consultation better
  • No doctor can treat a patient without his permission
  • 2014 The year of the Aam Patient
  • A layman's guide to getting the best during a hospital stay
  • Medical negligence: How to file a complaint
  • Patient rights in India what you should know
  • Have a doctor's appointment? Make the most of it with these tips
  • Patient Rights how not to get quacked by babas and medical cures
  • Medical negligence how to get justice
  • Patient advocacy why patients need to be given a voice

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