Researchers say including patients’ photos with CT scans could yield better results.

| December 3, 2008

A study being presented at the RSNA meeting in Chicago looked at impact of radiologists looking at radiology studies with snapshots of the patients faces themselves and what the investigators found.


Workflows in radiology and surgical pathology are similar in several ways.  A batch of cases may be waiting to be read in the morning and acute or critical studies are reviewed during the course of the day in addition to other cases being processed to be read. 


In both cases the studies or slides to be read simply contain no more than basic demographic information. 


In some transplant centers facial snapshots are incorporated in the summary sheets as part of the documentation for pre- and post-transplant care as it is done here.  Occassionally, I will come across this wallet-sized photo in the paperwork when looking at the explant or subsequent biopsies. 


I can say that whether I see the picture (or not), what the patient looks like and not just their liver sections do, impacts what I do to sign out their case, but it would be an interesting study to replicate in surgical pathology and look at with several pathologists and biopsies/surgical specimens.


The AP (12/2) reported that an "Israeli study found adding photos of patients' faces to the file made…doctors more meticulous when looking at the X-rays. They reported more details and said they felt more empathy for patients who were otherwise strangers."


According to HealthDay (12/2, McKeever), "clipping a photo of the patient next to their radiological scans helps humanize each case, and boosts the accuracy with which scans are read by radiologists," a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America suggests. Yehonatan N. Turner, M.D., of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and colleagues, asked radiologists to review "patients' files electronically via their hospital's picture archiving and communication system (PACS), a network for the storage and retrieval of medical images."


MedPage Today (12/2, Fiore) added that the "patients were divided into three groups. In the 'face first' group, the radiologist saw a photo of the patient at the initial interpretation." For "the 'face later group,' scans were interpreted without the radiologist seeing a photo and then again three months later with a photo attached." There were no photos for the third group, who served as controls. Next, the investigators "analyzed four separate parameters of the radiologists' reports: the number of words in the report, the number of incidental findings noted, and the presence or absence of a summary section, and further recommendations."


They found that "When the CT [computed tomography] image was read with a photo attached, the summary consisted of significantly more words and the number of incidental findings was approximately double what it was when no photo was attached," Medscape (12/2, Kerr) noted.


In fact, there "was an 80 percent drop in incidental findings, such as identifying a tumor while looking for kidney stones, when the personal photograph was absent," Scott Hensley wrote in the Wall Street Journal (12/2) Health Blog. Still, "some doctors questioned whether the effect was a novelty that would fade with use," while "others said patient anonymity can have advantages when it comes to suppressing racial biases, for instance." The U.S. News and World Report (12/2) Comarow On Quality blog also covered the story.

Category: Conferences, Publications, Radiology

Comments are closed.