Put on a Happy Face

December 10th, 2008 | Sources: MedPageToday

Subjects: ,

Toiling for hours in basement offices can make radiologists a bit grumpy, but scientists have found a simple way to cheer them up and produce more thorough reports at the same time.

Yahonatan N. Turner and colleagues at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem reported that adding patient photos to their x-ray files increased radiologist’s empathy and generated longer reports, more incidental findings, more summaries and more suggestions for follow-up study.

In their experiment, the scientists divided patients into a face first group, a face later group and a control group.

In the first group, radiologists viewed a patient’s head-shot before interpreting the patient’s CT scan. In the second, radiologists reviewed a CT without seeing a photo, and reviewed the scan again 3 months later, this time preceded by a photo. CT interpretations in control group were rendered sans photo.

In accompanying questionnaires, radiologists strongly agreed that the photos motivated them to empathize with the patient and “feel more like a physician,” according to MedPageToday.

The majority of respondents supported routine additions of patient photos to x-ray files.

But before everyone heads off to CT with happy snaps on thumb-drives, the scientists warn that photos could introduce bias beyond what radiologists might glean from the patient’s name, age, gender, present illness and past history.

And HIPAA rules would require that patients consent to having their photos passed around.


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