How visual data is transforming healthcare

Patient wellbeing in a digital world

The ability to capture images is fundamental to modern medicine. The plethora of tools available to clinicians, from X-rays to MRI scans, are integral to the diagnosis and monitoring of medical conditions. In addition to advanced imaging techniques, the humble camera allows clinicians to assess and maintain a visual record of a patient’s condition. The use of this data not only allows for more accurate diagnoses, but also for ease of communication with patients in an increasingly complex healthcare world, including improved patient understanding and inclusion. 

Images are useful not only at the time of diagnosis, but also support efficient and accurate monitoring and follow up. At Isla, one of our core functionalities is the secure transfer of visual data from patients to clinicians, where images or videos may be remotely requested and uploaded. Clinicians themselves may also upload visual data which may be viewed at any time by the relevant clinical team, allowing for more informed clinical decisions to be made and progress to be tracked. 

A study examining the role of pictures in health communication (Houts et al., 2006) outlined the improvement in patient comprehension and adherence to health instructions when text is linked to visual data. In recent years, centres such as Harefield Hospital have introduced the Photo at Discharge (PaD) scheme, where patients leaving after surgeries are given a clear and consented photo of their wound along with tailored care information. This photograph allows the patient to easily assess healing progress, as well as flag any potential areas for concern which can be conveniently monitored remotely through Isla. 

Not only does the PaD programme offer benefit to the patient through self-monitoring and peace of mind, but it also results in economic advantages to hospitals through avoiding re-admissions of patients with infected wounds. A five year study (Rochon & Morais, 2019) of PaD showed overwhelmingly positive results, with 97% of patients agreeing that PaD is beneficial, as well as an average capacity of 246 bed days freed up and over £200,000 cost avoided. The benefit to both patients and healthcare centres is clear. Combined with regular follow-ups made easy through Isla, the programme allows both patient and clinician to easily track progress in a convenient and easily scalable manner, while maintaining a human connection. In addition to the wound care services, Isla is currently at work in a number of other sectors including dermatology, neurology, sexual health, therapies, and community nursing, where visual data is vital to clinical management.

Since the first clinical x-rays were captured in 1896, the world has evolved to depend ever-increasingly on visual data in healthcare. Not only are we able to rely on advanced internal imaging tools to identify medical concerns, but through cameras on our personal devices healthcare can become more accessible. Isla is building on these ideas, growing the visual component to the healthcare record in our effort to support patients and clinicians alike. 

Peter S. Houts et al. (2006)“The role of pictures in improving health communication: A review of research on attention, comprehension, recall, and adherence”, Patient Education and Counseling, 61(2), 173-190.

Rochon, M and Morais, C (2019), “Five years on: a national patient and public involvement audit and economic assessment of photo at discharge”, Wounds UK, 15(3), 28-35.