Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Radiologist with a Heart

This feature from the NY Times about Dr. Yehonatan Turner, a radiology resident in Israel deserves a read. A couple of days ago I cracked down on radiologists and the degree to which they are held accountable for their findings. This story paints them in a far more favorable light.

Dr. Turner found during his residency that, by virtue of spending all his time interpreting radiographic images completely disconnected from the actual humans that the images corresponded to, he was missing something ineffable and yet fundamental about being a physician. So he tried something unusual; he attached a photograph of each patient to their film jacket.

“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.”


I think that's cool. He even put together a journal paper to describe the effects of his little experiment. Besides a heightened sense of connectiveness, the investigation found that the reports done on photograph-available patients were more thorough and comprehensive. So beyond the warm and fuzzy angle, there is a practical benefit in terms of improving the level of health care provided to patients.
In a questionnaire that was also part of the study, the radiologists said that the photos helped them relate better to the patients and that they themselves felt “more like physicians".


Part of the story is also a little bittersweet. This kid is exactly the sort of young compassionate physician who would thrive in a primary care setting where there is direct contact with patients. Instead the poor guy sits in a darkened room all day looking at fascimiles of patients, just starving for the sort of intimate human contact that makes the doctor/patient relationship so unique and privileged. It's too bad medical school is so expensive and, even worse, that radiologists get paid three times as much as family practice docs and internists. It makes you wonder how many more Dr. Turners there are in this country that primary care loses to subspecialties.

7 comments:

Vijay said...

Buckeye: FYI, Ramona tweeted in public that she thinks I'm a radiologist with a heart :)

halfmd said...

How did he get pictures of the patients? I've never seen a hospital that takes pictures of the patients.

Frank Drackman said...

Gotta call BS here...
He's Probably just lookn for attractive females... or maybe unattractive ones, or ones with chin hair, lotta wierdos out there... I know its crazy, but couldn't he look at the patient when they GET the X-ray, I know its tough, might actually have to go to the ER or ICU... He might even be able to examine them or take a history...
He's scammin

Frank

Buckeye Surgeon said...

halfie-
Dick Cheney authorized unwarranted photographs of patients at Dr. Turner's hospital...

Vijay said...

There's a picture of the radiologist, Dr. Yehonatan Turner here...

radinc said...

Saw that article, it's a neat idea. Still, the study only found that there were more incidental findings detected when the pictures were added, not that the ultimate diagnosis was changed. That's not always a good thing -- I routinely "miss" 3mm nodules on PE CT's performed on 30 year old patients.

The system is definitely encouraging med students to go toward the higher paying, better lifestyle specialities of ortho, rads, gas, derm rather than family practice. The scutty on-call hours and low level of respect from peers don't help either.

These specialties are highly paid because medical reimbursement rewards extraneous testing, extra procedures/surgeries, and cya imaging with no regard to quality. Knee MR done on a 0.2T magnet and basically nondiagnostic? It still gets paid. Did a half-assed job with your AV fistula and it goes down in 3 months? Jump graft it and collect again!

There's a lot of problems within the medical school education and healthcare systems, I'm doubtful that they'll be fixed until the inevitable implosion.

crazedsurgeon said...

whoo radinc you are courting a lawsuit! brave balls.