Think about entering the healthcare system as a patient. You get handed 5 pages of tiny font sheets to fill in with your address, person paying the bills, the medical history of yourself and two generations back every time you go in, You scribble out answers into tiny boxes and hand the forms back. Then they give you 3 small-font pages of legal disclaimers and conditions to read and approve.
Next a nurse takes you aside for a blood pressure reading, a weight assessment, and various other information. He scribbles all of the resuolts into a chart.
Next up the doctor enters. She scans all of the paper you filled out and what the nurse wrote down, and then starts asking you questions in a shotgun approach. When you comment that the answer is still what you wrote down 5 minutes earlier, she is not impressed.
Later the doctor gives you instructions. She goes fast but alo types the suggestions into an EMR (electronic medical record). You may lose the form (common with the cognitive diagnoses I have), not understand everything in the report, and not be able to read 2 point text. but at least you can recover what she wrote.
Don’t they always say a picture is worth 1,000 words? Don’t most people agree with that statement?
For the current aging birth cohort (boomers), images are a way of life. Photos were available when we were born and financially accessible to most by the mid-1960s. The number of pictures increased in newspapers and later on the Internet over the past 50 years. Immediate images and videos from the ubiquitous smartphones have been available to the majority of world-wide families for the past 5 years.
Home black and white television sets became very common in the 1950s and color televisions in the late 1960s.. By the 1990 many US homes had more than one television set. In the 2000s screen (flat panel) sizes at least doubled in size in most homes. 700 channels and 3 TV sets and and nothing on.
We all use images constantly and reading text is going down. We primarily get our news from pictures on the Internet, in print media, and shared with friends or on social media. Pictures are used to influence our attitudes, behaviors, preferences, and to sell us products.
I have been working hard at creating and using images in my own healthcare for the past 9 years after I was diagnosed with a progressive neurocognitive disorder.
About six months ago I had a PET scan of my brain as well as my fourth MRI since 2010. I now have two neurologists. The secondary one (a cognitive neurologist who ordered the scans) emailed me a one page written report wit the results. No images were shown on that report. At my following appointment she discussed the report with me. She commented that there were no images to see. I then asked her if she was going to correct the conceptual typo in the report. In the first summary paragraph of the report it said that my PET scan was normal; the remaining two-thirds of the report gave numbers that indicated portions of my brain were not functioning well. Then the first paragraph was repeated at the end but this time the summary was identical in all but one word which said that my scans indicated significant problems. The doctor sent an email to medical transcription while I was there pointing out the problem.
I asked to see the scan and was told that there was nothing for me to see. I was more than a little surprised by that (well a lot surprised!). I had thought that it would be cool to see which parts of my brain were goners and which were lighting up.
A month later I saw my primary neurologist who has been in charge of my care for more than 9 years. I asked her if she had read the report on my PET scan and last MRI. I explained that I was really surprised that the other neurologist told me that there was nothing for me to see. So she then went to her large clinical display, called up my file and showed me sequential MRI and PET scans. It was pretty easy to see changes in my brain over time. Nice pictures, too. I learned a lot about my treatment and disease progression over time.
A picture is worth 10,000 words. Five scans over 10 years is a treasure trove.
Visual patient-provider information exchanges can be aided by images. Self management and that by a caretaker can be aided by images. Memory can be enhanced with images. An understanding of the problem may be more easily achieved by family members and the patient when supported by images. This is a win-win-win-win situation.
The system I used for creating images to manage information allows me to manage myself better, relieve stress I put on caregivers, understand medical research better, and communicate with my doctors clearly. It primarily uses mind maps. Both neurologists have concluded that I use my techniques to compensate for some of my neurological (brain functioning) problems.
There are about 700 posts on this web site about issues in using mind maps, how to do it, my experiences, and “real” examples of using visual thinking methods as my cognitive functioning declined.
Oh … It should be noted I estimate that using visual methods of processing medical information for ONE YEAR are very inexpensive in comparison to ONE Emergency Room visit, ONE primary health care visit, ONE week of a patient’s period of acceptable cognitive functioning, ONE day of wasted homecare, ONE day out of work for a family caregiver. Now let’s multiply that by the number of Americans receiving healthcare through self pay or public insurance programs (Medicaid, Medicare, others) or private company managed health insurers.
Here’s another mind map about how the healthcare system might be made better (and less expensive) by incorporating health care information into mind maps and passing them around among patients, caregivers, family members, friends, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
Click the image to expand the mind map.