Patient Pictures Result in Better Quality Care. Why Aren’t More Clinics Using Them?

We live in a time when both virtually everyone has a high-quality digital camera on them at all times, including doctors and nurses, and electronic medical records are the primary way patient information is accessed. However, very few electronic medical records include pictures of patients. This is the case even though the research clearly shows patient pictures reduce medical errors.

Why aren’t more clinics using patient pictures? Perhaps it’s because they use the wrong tools for medical records and patient hand offs.

Research on Patient Pictures

Stanford medical center began adding patient pictures to medical records after it saw the remarkable results a pediatric hospital had in Colorado. Patient identification errors went down sharply.

Even though almost all clinics and hospitals use some form of identification bracelet and biometric collection, patient identification errors continue to happen at an alarming rate.

The evidence is clear. Patient pictures are one of the most effective tools for reducing patient identification errors. Furthermore, patient pictures may also improve the care a patient receives.

Why Pictures Help

Why do patient pictures help more than so many more automated and machine based approaches? One issue is the fundamental cause of patient identification issues. Providers don’t know the patients.

It sounds simple. But, patient identification issues are almost non-existent in primary care settings where there is a years long doctor-patient relationship.

Humans are social animals. Faces trigger our social instincts. Pictures help reduce patient identification issues and improve care because medicine is still practiced by people. It is easier to see a face doesn’t match the picture than it is to deal with any other identifier. Pictures transcend language barriers, speech impediments, and intoxication. Patient photos work when patients are unconscious or non-responsive.

Why More Clinics Aren’t Using Patient Pictures?

If patient pictures are such an important tool, why don’t more clinics follow Stanford’s lead? Why are so few clinics using patient pictures effectively?

The reason comes down to convenience. Few clinics are setup to integrate pictures with their medical record systems. Medical record providers have not seen a huge demand for the feature and have not included it in their packages—or if it is possible, it is too expensive and difficult to set up.

Many clinics also use third-party apps to supplement their electronic medical records systems. However, these developers also have failed to take the simple step of including a patient picture option.

Physician Sign Out Makes it Easy

Physician Sign Out is dedicated to improving medical care. Because so many expensive and tragic medical errors happen during patient hand off or sign off, we created an easy to use, secure, cloud-based app that improves provider communication and accountability.

As part of our efforts to continually improve the quality of care patients receive by making the job of doctors and nurses easier, we have added the ability of the Physician Sign Out app to include a patient picture.

Just like Stanford, we are confident that the widespread use of patient pictures in the patient hand off will greatly reduce patient identification errors and improve patient care.