The power of putting a face with a name

When Dr. Yehonatan N. Turner began his residency in radiology, he was frustrated that the CT scans he analyzed revealed nothing about the patients behind them — only their internal organs. So to make things personal, he imagined each patient was his father. But then he had a better idea: attach a photograph of the actual patient to each file.

“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.”

Dr. Turner’s hunch turned into an unusual medical study. Its preliminary findings, presented in Chicago last December at a conference of the Radiological Society of North America, suggested that when a digital photograph was attached to a patient’s file, radiologists provided longer, more meticulous reports. And they said they felt more connected to the patients, whom they seldom meet face to face.

The full article is here.

2 Responses to “The power of putting a face with a name”

  1. Simon Says:

    I am very sceptical of this. There is a large amount of evidence indicating that using names and photographs can result in all kinds of unintended consequences.

    In Israel, Fershtman and Gneezy (2001) show how altruism & trust differ when ethnicity can be identified. Eckel and Wilson (2002) show that using photographs in polar trust games (a ‘loan’ game) has the consequence of African Americans being less trusted than Caucasian Americans. Burns (2004,2006) using photographs in dictator and trust games in South Africa, shows that in dictator games Whites offer more on average, though they display charity towards Blacks, in trust games (consistent with Eckel and Wilson) Blacks are systematically distrusted, with many whites not even engaging in strategic interactions with them, and thus allowing the racial prejudice to remain.

    (In South Africa the terms ‘White’, ‘Coloured’, and ‘Black’ are the political terms for groups for ethnic classification towards affirmative action, see Commission for Employment Equity, 2008).

  2. John Says:

    Hasn’t the bulk of evidence-based medicine shown that often “less is more”–providing additional, extraneous data (1) makes experts/clinicians feel they are making better decisions and (2) actually leads to more errors in their decisions/assessments.

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