How Are Pictures Useful in Online Health Queries?
Here a picture will say a thousand words, but only in a mysterious language of medical literature. Though images of affected areas of the body may not completely replace the need for in-person examination, in most cases, if rightly taken and when considered in the appropriate context, these can:
Cut down on the number of non-productive visits to a local health facility before you are prepared in your mind for undergoing treatment.
It can be a great replacement for in-person evaluation for many skin lesions.
Can guide you to seek help early if there is some problem waiting to happen.
Easily monitor the progress or the healing of wounds and skin lesions.
Can decrease the associated awkwardness or anxiety of multiple private part examinations.
These pictures can be used to digitize and keep a handy copy of your and your family's medical records, and when required, they can be uploaded along with your queries while seeking health advice online.
How Should One Take Pictures for Online Consultations?
Take pictures bearing the following things in mind:
1) There is no better light than daylight to take pictures, including selfies. It is diffuse and neutral in color.
Try to avoid flash, especially with a mobile phone. You can use a study or table lamp if you need more light. In the case of private parts, where flash is usually required, use a proper camera in macro mode (the flower symbol) and not a mobile phone.
2) Wash or clean the area thoroughly before you take a picture.
3) Try to take someone’s help in taking pictures, especially for the back. Stand straight or lie down with your arms by the sides while taking a picture. Rotated pictures can be very confusing. In case you cannot take someone’s help, use a selfie stick or a camera on a stand and timer mode.
4) Wide field of an image helps in the orientation of the picture. If you have a problem near your belly button, take a picture to include the whole abdomen extending from the lower chest and include the groin. You can take a further close-up after the wide view picture and post both pictures.
5) In the case of eyes, ears, limbs, joints, hands, feet, etc., the field of the picture should contain both the sides of the body; for example, if you have an issue with one knee, put both the knees together and then ask someone to take the picture. In the case of documents, image the whole page, including date and institution, lab name, and place.
6) Take a picture of the site of the problem or lesion by placing a measuring tape by the side of the lesion. Place the measuring tape in centimeters around 10 cm from the edge of the problem lesion. Do not use a metal ruler as it will shine, and glare will obscure the markings. If using a plastic ruler, paste a strip of white paper behind a transparent ruler to make its markings prominent.
7) The background of the image that would help to bring out the contrast better is a gray or dark bluish color. This is because most cameras are automatically set to designate around 15 % of colors in a picture as being gray.
8) The best angle for taking a picture of a document is,
Take a straight overhead shot of the document with your mobile phone. You can use the so-called scanner applications (in batch mode) on your phone to convert all pages of a report into a single pdf file as well. The biggest plus point of these applications is that they allow you to straighten the angled corners of the page images very easily. Also, these have automatic basic contrast enhancement features.
Imaging glossy paper is a bit tricky. Here the precaution is, if the light is falling on the left side of the paper document while taking the picture, angle the camera towards the same side as the light source, that is, towards the left itself. This way, you will avoid catching a glare of the glossy or photo paper.
9) But for the body regions, the best angle is not straight but a spot-on view of the site.
The best case would be one picture straight spot-on and two more images, one each from the opposite sides of the body, slightly around 30 degrees off the direct spot-on view. This is required to show the depth or height of the lesion.
10) Making a brief HD video is also possible, provided the website accepts it.
Regarding Privacy Concerns:
You should always cover your date of birth, address, and contact information in your documents with bookmark prompts or a marker before taking the picture. These can be covered digitally as well. For body parts, other than the face (for which you can wear shades), rest all, including private parts, is very hard to identify uniquely.
Pandemic has made telemedicine one of the essential services. Taking photographs, keeping all the useful things mentioned above in mind, improves both doctor and patient satisfaction in diagnosis and treatment planning.
Frequently Asked Questions