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Health Consumers Empowered by Sharing Medical Photographs

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 11 Jul 2019
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Image: Dr. Kara Burns and a medical “selfie” (Photo courtesy of Kara Burns).
Image: Dr. Kara Burns and a medical “selfie” (Photo courtesy of Kara Burns).
A new study shows that sharing clinically relevant data collected by patients or their carers may improve health care outcomes.

Researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT; Australia) and Queensland Children's Hospital (QCH; Brisbane, Australia) conducted a pilot study with parents of children undergoing laparoscopic appendectomy. For 10 days, they generated consumer-generated health data (CGHD) surgical site photographs and emailed them to the QCH every two days so that surgeons could review healing. Subsequently, the parents were interviewed about the engagement framework. In total, 60 interviews were analyzed using theme and content analysis.

The parents said it improved their confidence in and satisfaction with the medical service, and taking the photos was a useful reminder for them to check how the surgical sites were healing. According to the researchers, CGHD can instigate an ecosystem of engagement and provide clinicians with an enhanced therapeutic relationship through an extended view of the patient’s and their carers world. In addition to clinical diagnosis and efficient use of health care resources, the data can also offer a tool to manage consumers service experience, especially the emotions associated with the health care journey. The study was published in the June 2019 issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“The parents who took part in the trial said they felt reassured and that the service was going above and beyond. They said normally the door feels shut when you leave a hospital, and providing the photos was a way to stay connected and contact the surgeon afterwards,” said lead author Kara Burns, PhD, of QuT, a former medical photographer. “It helps them have a sense of autonomy in their care, improves their view of the service they are being provided, and it enhances the relationship between doctor and patient because there is a sense of mutual respect and communication.”

“In one case, a mum had a six-week-old baby who was constantly vomiting, and she felt no one was listening to her concerns. She was so unimpressed by the doctor's responses to her that she changed providers. When she took a video to the next doctor, they assessed that something was wrong and that her daughter needed surgery,” added Dr. Burns. “While for clinicians it may be difficult to integrate patient-generated data, such as photographs, video, or information from apps or body monitoring devices, into clinical records, medical professionals should consider it. If doctors ignore it and don't engage, this research shows that it impacts the service experience and that some patients will switch doctors.”

Related Links:
Queensland University of Technology
Queensland Children's Hospital


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