A paper presented at this month’s Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting showed that inclusion of photographs of patients improved accuracy of radiologists’ reports, according to a press release from the RSNA. Putting a photograph of the patient aside their images on a PAC screen resulted not only in the radiologists feeling more empathy toward the patient but they also identified more incidental findings (the files were chosen because of incidental findings in this randomized study) without taking more time to review the images.
This somewhat unexpected finding adds another reason to consider adding patient photographs to electronic medical records (EMR’s). We think that inclusion of a patient photograph could significantly improve patient safety (eg. helping prevent a physician from inadvertently ordering on the wrong patient during CPOE, or a nurse administering a medication to wrong patient). In the digital age, it is certainly easy enough to include photographs in the EMR. But the logisitics, legal and privacy issues, measurable outcomes, and unintended consequences remain to be determined.