Just how closely do radiologists look at what they’re supposed to be analyzing? Would knowing whose CT scans they were studying make medical technicians or doctors more empathetic and accurate in the work they do? That’s what Yehonatan N. Turner, a third-year resident in radiology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem wondered, after being struck with how little he knew about the people whose scans and medical issues he was charged with making sense of.
That realization led Turner to devise and run a series of controlled experiments, in which photographic portraits accompanied medical scans that were sent to radiologists. Three hundred patients agreed to participate, allowing their pictures to be taken and attached to their files. The results were surprising. Radiologists—who often view CT scans from remote locations and have little physician-patient contact—wrote more detailed reports for scans accompanied by portrait photographs, and also tended to include more recommendations and incidental findings.