Dr. Turner found during his residency that, by virtue of spending all his time interpreting radiographic images completely disconnected from the actual humans that the images corresponded to, he was missing something ineffable and yet fundamental about being a physician. So he tried something unusual; he attached a photograph of each patient to their film jacket.
“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.”
I think that's cool. He even put together a journal paper to describe the effects of his little experiment. Besides a heightened sense of connectiveness, the investigation found that the reports done on photograph-available patients were more thorough and comprehensive. So beyond the warm and fuzzy angle, there is a practical benefit in terms of improving the level of health care provided to patients.
In a questionnaire that was also part of the study, the radiologists said that the photos helped them relate better to the patients and that they themselves felt “more like physicians".
Part of the story is also a little bittersweet. This kid is exactly the sort of young compassionate physician who would thrive in a primary care setting where there is direct contact with patients. Instead the poor guy sits in a darkened room all day looking at fascimiles of patients, just starving for the sort of intimate human contact that makes the doctor/patient relationship so unique and privileged. It's too bad medical school is so expensive and, even worse, that radiologists get paid three times as much as family practice docs and internists. It makes you wonder how many more Dr. Turners there are in this country that primary care loses to subspecialties.