This aspect of online health consultation is supposed to be so obvious that this is often forgotten. The purpose of attaching an image file with a medical query is necessary for the following reasons:
Delivery of Information Accurately:
- The reason for this is that the medical field and system of healthcare delivery is very complex. And without any formal education on the subject, to be able to understand everything in the right context, decide what is significant and what is not, is literally expecting too much.
- So, even if you think that you are narrating the story right, there might be a less appreciated version of the same story out there, which you did not have any idea. Thus, it is better to upload the exact report of the investigation performed. This is true for most investigations of body fluids (blood tests, urine tests, etc.), endoscopy pictures and radiologist’s report of the imaging like ultrasound, mammogram, CT scan, MRI, etc.
- In case you have many investigations, it would be better to upload a summary by the previous doctor or take some medical professional’s help or ask the doctor directly regarding what all is required.
Delivery of Complete information:
- Providing incomplete information is a more common issue. For example, if someone asks the question ‘the doctors told me patient has a 5 cm X 3 cm bleed on the left side of the brain, so what is the prognosis of the patient?’
- When the same thing was told to the patient’s relative, it was sufficient information to understand the cause of problems that the patient is suffering from, but for a doctor to advice, it is very inadequate information to comment on the prognosis. It does not say the gender and age, the third dimension of the bleed, location of the lesion with respect to other structures, why it happened in the first place, etc. But medical records will describe all the relevant information that is missing.
- Another aspect is, let us say you reported accurately what your previous doctor told you, but there was some obscure looking abbreviation by the side of your patient record which you could not read or did not understand. Now if you upload this image it might be possible that the online doctor you are consulting can understand it. Also, there are many cases when patients forget one or two less pressing problems, which can be picked up by reading the records. Finally, the dates on investigation reports and progression of changes observed go a long way in establishing the timeline of the disease.
- If you were ever admitted to a hospital or underwent surgery, the most important record is the discharge summary and investigation sheet (and operative findings in the case of surgery). Please insist on getting a complete summary at discharge, for every hospital admission. If your patient is currently admitted, you have the right to get a written copy of the current status of the patient, to seek a second opinion. So talk to your doctor; if there is mutual trust, everything works out and your doctor may even advice you go online or explain it to you why the suggestion is applicable or not applicable to your patient.
To Prevent Confusion, Misinterpretation, and Misunderstanding:
- To prevent errors, some industries have developed unambiguous codes and terminology, but it is not universally true of medical science. There is still a lot of room for standardization of the opinion given by a doctor. It is not like two mathematicians communicating with each other regarding equations, or two engineers looking for some part number in an engine. Doctors are getting on to become evidence-based, but this transformation is not complete yet. This, in fact, is the sole reason for taking a second opinion.
- Secondly, there can be an inherent bias in the patient’s mind that will lead to some modulation of information so as to get to a conclusion that is not acceptable or comfortable.
Regarding Privacy Concerns:
- You should always cover your date of birth, address, and contact number 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.