'Medical Selfies' may soon replace old doctor-patient procedure in surgery cases

Medical selfie
As part of her PhD at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, Dr Kara Burns led a two-part study which shows that taking medical 'selfies' and sharing them with a doctor empowers and reassures healthcare consumers, and can improve doctor-patient relationships. QUT

A new study has revealed that taking medical 'selfies' is likely to emerge as a new trend replacing the old norm where a patient is either visiting a doctor personally or sending the medical records duly online.

The two-part study led by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia has found that sharing the medical selfies with a doctor actually empowers and reassures patients or healthcare consumers, and can improve doctor-patient relationship.

Former medical photographer Kara Burns conducted the research as part of her PhD through the QUT Business School to gauge experiences with and attitudes to consumer-generated health photographs. For her study, Burns first interviewed 30 patients, clinicians, and health carers.

Her second study was a pilot trial with parents taking photos of their children's surgical wounds after they had undergone laparoscopic appendectomy at the Queensland Children's Hospital. For this purpose, 26 parents were provided training to take photos every two days and email them to the hospital so that surgeons could review healing process.

Parents, who participated in the study 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 wounds were healing.

"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 Burns, whose findings from the photographic trial essentially supported conclusions made from the interviews.

"The first study asked a range of people what they think about the role of this kind of consumer-generated data, and the second study was to see how people engage with it, as there can be a difference between what people say they will do and what they will do... These two studies largely confirmed each other," she said.

Consumers said that such monitoring helped them have a sense of autonomy in their care, improved their view of the service and enhanced the relationship between doctor and patient because there is a communication.

The major challenge is whether clinicians accept and integrate patient-generated data, such as photographs, video, or information from apps or body monitoring devices, into their official clinical records.

"This study adds to a body of research that shows there are benefits for clinicians and also for patients in engaging with this kind of patient or carer-generated information," said Burns, insisting on medical selfies becoming a new trend health care segment.

"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 noted.

Citing an example, she said a mum of a six-week-old baby who was constantly vomiting, felt that no one was listening to her concerns and was unimpressed by the doctor's responses. She soon changed the doctors and when she took a video to the next doctor, it was found that something was wrong and said that her daughter needed surgery.

Such instances reiterate the need for a new medical selfies to help doctors listen to the woes of their patients with privacy assured and confidence instilled, said Burns pitching for a new trend where medical selfies are likely to foray as the next generation requirement.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.