Dr M.I. Sahadullah’s first book, ‘Vital Signs’, launched by Gov-ernor P Sathasivam recently, reveals that the author is not only a highly qualified and professional physician and medical entrepreneur, but someone who straddles the old method of touching, feeling and using the simple stethoscope rather than the new method of the machines diagnosing and the doctors merely following the technical directions.
The very first chapter of the book, which Dr Sahadullah claims is neither an autobiography nor a book on medicine or health care, is about the change in the practice of medicine in India. He has embraced technology fully in his hospitals, but remembers nostalgically of the old days when diagnosis was more an art than a science.
“The various aspects of physical examination-- touching the patient, using the stethoscope to listen to body sounds, doing a bit of percussion, feeling the abdomen, examining the nervous system and so on-- happen to a much lesser extent today.” This is very unfortunate as it pushes up the cost of care since patients are often asked to do tests they do not really need and the reliance on technology limits the doctor’s ability to build a relationship with the patients. He also reveals in the book that unlike many hospitals, KIMS does not fix quotas for doctors to earn money for the hospital.
Dr Sahadullah explains the “KIMS difference” as the emphasis on people and practices. KIMS has scrapped the widely followed health care sector conventions such as commissions to doctors for patient referrals and laboratory tests. Principled discipline is the secret of the KIMS success.
The author dwells at length on the use of IT at KIMS and explains how IT itself has changed in the health sector. From playing a supportive role, IT is increasingly moving centre stage. KIMS believes that technology helps diagnosis, but tries to retain the primacy of doctor-patient relationship. It is not IT that affects the traditional relationship, but the way the doctors use it. Technology is supposed to help the healing touch. It should also be remembered that machines can also make mistakes and so the doctors should apply the corrective measures as necessary.
KIMS is already experimenting with AI, IOT and robotics, but these technologies must be shaped to retain the human touch. “For now, I believe that machines are great, but man has no equal,” says Dr.Sahadullah.
The book is a virtual storehouse on the principles of medical practices and their likely evolution, a step by step guide for those who want to build hospitals in the future, the experience of operating in various gulf countries and the use of technology in medicine.
The most charming part of the book is its autobiographical content. The glimpses that we get of the growth and evolution of a young physician to a legendary health care specialist are evocative and nostalgic. He is generous in describing the contribution of his mentors, his colleagues and his parents and his children.
It is obvious that he has found time, in the middle of his multifarious responsibilities, to be a family man, who devotes his time for his children and grandchildren. He is also at the centre of humanitarian and management activities and a familiar face in art and cultural fora.
I know he reads a lot as I get comments from him on my columns and books. If a doctor can pay attention to strategic thinking and education, he is no ordinary doctor. And that shows in the easy style of his writing and his ability to bring the intricacies of medicine to the lay reader.
The ‘Vital Signs’ should not be consigned to the medical libraries, but should stay on the shelves of those who wish to learn all that happens in the medical field and to know how someone keeps his medical practice strictly within the Hippocratic oath....