Patients have asked me for years to diagnose things over the phone (and now the internet). And okay, sometimes it works; once you’ve had a bladder infection, for example, it’s pretty hard to mix the symptoms up with anything else, and I can get a pretty clear picture of what is going on without actually seeing you.
But more often than not, I want to see you. Nailing down exactly what ails you is much easier in person, where the nuances of your posture, color, ability to carry on a conversation, and innumerable other visual clues are right there in front of me. Lots of things that I can diagnose with a quick glance – rashes, for example – are practically impossible for you to explain over the phone, unless you’re fluent in dermatology-speak and are comfortable with statements like, “I have fluctuant erythematous macules with scaly, raised satellite lesions and non-tender indurated papules.”
To prove my point, let’s steal a page out of Yale Medical School’s playbook and hone our observational skills on a famous work of art. Ladies and gentlemen… I give you the Mona Lisa!
Look at her picture for a few seconds. Now try and tell me exactly what is going on with her. Evoke an accurate picture in my mind. Is she happy? Sad? Tired? Anxious? Make it good enough that I can feel comfortable prescribing medication, ordering lab work or knowing exactly what kind of radiographic study to get. Give it a shot and post it as a comment. It’s not easy!
We’re visual, us humans.
Which reminds me. I was tickling my eyeballs with a stroll through the world wide web today and chanced upon a serious visual gem, something I will refer to myself – and refer patients to – over and over again. This particular image organizes the evidence for vitamins and other nutritional supplements in a unique and visual manner. It’s beautiful. It’s clean. It’s referenced (PubMed and Cochrane, for those of you keeping score). I love it. It’s the iPod of nutritional supplementation knowledge. Take a look for yourself. It’s from the always fascinating Information is Beautiful blog. Enjoy and share with your friends over a lovely cup of green tea, which, as you can see, might actually do you some good!
Thanks to Life in the Fast lane for the head’s up.
Victoria Rentel, MD (OSU SHS)
photo: wikimedia commons