Make it Personal

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With organizations increasingly taking over parts of our lives, so we increasingly lose the personal touch which sometimes can make all the difference in life, it’s important to see how little things can be done to make the difference. This is especially true in health care.

Pink, in To Sell is Human, related a story about a radiologist, who, unlike doctors that spend most of their time interacting with patients, they spend most in dimly lit rooms or hunched over computer reading X-rays, CRT Scans and MRIs. Can the isolation of single-mindedness actually diminish performance?

To find out a resident radiologist, Dr. Turner, conducted an experiment in a hospital. With patient’s consent, he arranged to take pictures of 300 patients and attached them to the records, so when the radiologists looked at their CT scans, the next picture they would see is the person’s photo. After they made their assessments, the radiologists completed a questionnaire and reported overwhelmingly that they felt “more empathy to the patients after seeing the photograph†and reported being more meticulous when examining the scan.  Three months later came the real experiment.  One of the skills that separate outstanding radiologists from the average ones is the ability to identify “incidental findings†(abnormalities) on a scan that the doctors weren’t looking for.

In other words, if while looking at my arm to see if my ulna is fractured the doctor also discovers a cyst near the elbow, that’s an incidental finding.  Turner selected 81 scans in which incidental findings were reported by the doctors three months ago, and showed them to the doctors, without the photo. They were mixed in with the countless other scans so no-one realized they weren’t fresh scans for review. Turner found that “80% of the incidental findings were not reported when the photos were omitted!†In other words, there was a significant difference between whether the scan was just a file to be reviewed versus belonging to a human being that was identifiableâ€.

Clearly this has implications for all the work we do, and has special bearing on an issue that the health care system that is moving in the direction of increasingly less personalization.  What are your experiences? What do you think about this issue?