Adding photos to patient details could reduce medical errors

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Putting patients’ faces with their X-rays could help doctors to avoid mixing them up.

Adding photos of patients to their X-rays could help to reduce the rate of errors that occur in hospitals and other healthcare settings, a new study has suggested.

Research carried out by Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology saw ten radiologists asked to interpret 20 pairs of X-rays with and without photographs.

When there were no photos attached, the error detection rate was only 13 per cent, but this went up to 64 per cent when pictures were added.

It also increased again to 94 per cent when a second test was carried out and the radiologists were specifically instructed to pay attention to the snapshots.

"X-rays can look alike and if one patient’s images are confused with another before the radiologist sees them, it can be difficult for the radiologist to determine there is a mismatch," said lead author Dr Srini Tridandapani.

"It occurred to me that we should be adding a photograph to every medical imaging study as a means to correct this problem after I received a phone call and a picture of the caller appeared on my phone. The picture immediately identified for me who the caller was," he added.

Of course, healthcare providers wanting to test this out for themselves would have to go at least partly paperless in order to avoid the plus points being cancelled out by piles of photographs filling drawers of medical records.

This is something dentist Dr Kent Stapley said he has done in an interview with Dental Economics magazine, also revealing that he has been amazed by the benefits it has offered.

For instance, he has adopted digital X-rays rather than continuing to wait for films to be developed – although he may now also be tempted to add photographs to these after learning of the new study.

Businesses hoping to do the same can find out more at Dajon Data Management, which offers bespoke solutions for all kinds of sectors.
 

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