Face time

It’s fascinating how, along with their obviously useful applications, one thing diagnostic labs do is remove an element of human contact from the medical experience: just the facts of the case, no intuition or fuzzy stuff. You’d think that would be a boon for good medicine (in the way that double-blind studies are), but could it be that losing the face-to-face aspect actually makes for less meticulous diagnostics?

When Dr. Yehonatan N. Turner began his residency in radiology, he was frustrated that the CT scans he analyzed revealed nothing about the patients behind them — only their internal organs. So to make things personal, he imagined each patient was his father.

But then he had a better idea: attach a photograph of the actual patient to each file.

“I was looking for a way to make each case feel unique and less abstract,” said Dr. Turner, 36, now a third-year resident at Shaare Zedek Medical Center here. “I thought having a photo of the patient would help me relate in a deeper way.”

Dr. Turner’s hunch turned into an unusual medical study. Its preliminary findings, presented in Chicago last December at a conference of the Radiological Society of North America, suggested that when a digital photograph was attached to a patient’s file, radiologists provided longer, more meticulous reports. And they said they felt more connected to the patients, whom they seldom meet face to face.


Originally published at culture-making.com.

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