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Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy

Seeing a face helps create empathy and improves attention to the scan, study shows

TUESDAY, Dec. 2 (HealthDay News) -- 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 new study finds.

As technological advances have further distanced the radiologist from interaction with the patient, putting a patient's photo in his or her file may enable a more personal and empathetic approach, according to an Israeli study expected to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, in Chicago.

"Our study emphasizes approaching the patient as a human being and not as an anonymous case study," lead author Dr. Yehonatan N. Turner, radiology resident at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, said in a news release issued by the conference's organizer. "We feel it is important to counteract the anonymity that is common in radiologic exams, especially with the growth of teleradiology."

For the study, radiologists reviewed patients' files electronically via their hospital's picture archiving and communication system (PACS), a network for the storage and retrieval of medical images. When the files were open, the patient's photograph appeared automatically.

The results showed that radiologists gave a more meticulous reading of the medical images when a patient photo accompanied the file. For example, about 80 percent of the radiologic incidental findings reported originally were not reported when the radiologist re-examined the files three months later with the patient's photograph omitted from the file.

After reviewing the files, the radiologists all said they felt more empathy toward the patients after viewing their photos. The photographs often revealed key medical information, such as suffering or physical signs of disease, the doctors said.

"The photos were very helpful both in terms of improving diagnosis and the physicians own feelings as caregivers," Turner said. "Down the road, we would like to see photos added to all radiology case files."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about diagnostic imaging.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, Dec. 2, 2008

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