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Could patient ‘selfies’ improve clinical care?


Matt Woodley


28/06/2019 4:04:45 PM

Research has found people who share images with their doctor outside of consultations feel empowered, but questions over implementation remain.

Dr Kara Burns
Dr Kara Burns believes patient-generated data can improve clinical outcomes for both patients and doctors.

The two-part study, conducted by Queensland University of Technology researcher Dr Kara Burns, also found it could reassure healthcare consumers and improve doctor–patient relationships.
 
Dr Burns interviewed 30 patients, clinicians, and carers to gauge their experiences sharing consumer-generated health photos, and conducted a pilot trial that involved parents taking photos of their children’s surgical wounds following laparoscopic appendectomy. Those photos were then emailed to surgeons every two days so they could review how well the wound was healing.
 
According to the study, parents said the process improved their confidence in and satisfaction with the medical service, and taking the photos was a useful reminder for them to check how the surgical sites were healing.
 
However, Dr Burns told newsGP some clinicians held mixed views on the value of patient-generated data.
 
‘There was general acceptance that it was part of the patient story, but there was, as there is in other research, a small percentage of clinicians who were sceptical,’ she said.
 
‘Firstly about using it as the primary method of diagnosis, but then also whether it’s a reliable data source.’
 
Four GPs were interviewed as part of the study. Dr Burns believes such a process would be transferable to general practice, so long as questions regarding the storage of patient data and other practical elements had been answered.
 
‘Where is the data stored? What metadata is attached to it? It is categorised in a way that indicates its urgency? There are technological challenges,’ she said.
 
‘[Additionally], patients want to create lots of different types of data sources, but typically these are not as valuable to clinicians as patients might think.
 
‘However, if the clinician or doctor trains patients about the type of data that’s useful, it can improve the service experience and the clinical process for both patient and doctor.’
 
Dr Marguerite Tracy, a member of the RACGP Expert Committee – Quality Care (REC–QC), told newsGP that digital medicine, such as patient-generated data, is likely to become a bigger part of general practice in the future. But Dr Tracy added it will take large structural changes to the way GPs are remunerated, as well as increased protection for patient privacy to be able to incorporate processes to manage clinical data sent to practices by patients.
 
‘At the moment there’s no way for a GP to actually claim for information being sent to the practice and be appropriately managed, and it can be quite tricky to add the data to clinical notes,’ she said.
 
‘It will depend whether processes, remuneration and technology, in terms of privacy and data security, can keep up with other technical advances.’
 
Dr Tracy said software developers would be the most likely source of some of these solutions, while schemes such as voluntary patient enrolment could potentially alleviate concerns over remuneration.
 
‘Voluntary patient enrolment is supposed to cover other services you might provide for patients who have registered with you practice, but it’s probably not that viable to add right now – it would be an impost,’ she said.
 
‘There’s definitely scope for it being useful and the study had some very positive findings about improved patient engagement.
 
‘Regarding patients sending their data to practices, situations where a picture might add to the triaging of something could also be useful. But the process has to be in place.’



digital health patient-generated data





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