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Medical Photos Could Increase Satisfaction with Medical Service


Emailing images of surgical wounds could enhance the doctor-patient relationship.


Parents experienced an increase in confidence and satisfaction with their medical service after emailing photos of their child’s surgical site for surgeons to review, according to a two-part study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia also found that taking the photos served as a useful reminder for the parents to check on the healing of the wounds.

“The parents who took part in the trial said they felt reassured and that the service was going above and beyond,” said Kara Burns, Ph.D., of QUT Business School at Queensland University of Technology. “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.”

The research team sought to answer two questions:

  • How are consumer-generated health data used by consumers?
  • How does this data influence engagement?

The first part of the study explored the experiences of consumer-generated health data and the second helped validate the findings in clinical care and to explore care-generated data.

In the first part, researchers interviewed 30 participants — patients, caregivers and doctors — between the ages of 22 and 69 years old who had experience with consumer-generated photography.

The second part of the study used a pilot clinical trial with 30 parents of children undergoing laparoscopic appendectomy surgery. The research team trained the parents to take photographs of their children’s surgical wounds every two days and to email the staff over 10 days. Participants each took between one and six photographs during this time.

The researchers conducted interviews after the intervention using introductory open and probing questions to deepen the understanding of consumer-generated health data use, engagement and to validate the ontological framework.

A five-step process was used to analyze the interviews:

  • Gaining familiarity through reading the transcripts
  • Data reduction via coding
  • Thematic analysis of the codes
  • Data reorganization into the four domains and comparison across both studies
  • A discussion of the key considerations related to the research questions

Part-one of the study provided eight themes: improved health outcomes, self-perception, emotional regulation, empowerment, preventative mindset, self-management, social support and partnership with providers. The second part added service optimization and assessment. Providers contributed the finding of patient deviance.

“But these two studies largely confirmed each other,” Burns said. “Consumers feel this data is valuable, 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.”

Consumer-generated health data had 30 main use outcomes, including trust, health system control, medical research and awareness, grouped into 10 themes. Outcomes were placed into four groups: physiological, cognitive, emotional and behavioral groups.

The study authors noted that this data can aid providers in diagnosis and management, improve communication and reduce unnecessary consultation. The data serves as another tool for providers to manage the patient journey and assure them that healing is occurring.

“If doctors ignore it and don’t engage, this research shows that it impacts the service experience and that some patients will switch doctors,” she said.

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