Do Photographic Images of Pain Improve Communication during Pain Consultations?
BACKGROUND: Visual images may facilitate the communication of pain during consultations.OBJECTIVES: To assess whether photographic images of pain enrich the content and/or process of pain consultation by comparing patients’ and clinicians’ ratings of the consultation experience.METHODS: Photographic images of pain previously co-created by patients with a photographer were provided to new patients attending pain clinic consultations. Seventeen patients selected and used images that best expressed their pain and were compared with 21 patients who were not shown images. Ten clinicians conducted assessments in each condition. After consultation, patients and clinicians completed ratings of aspects of communication and, when images were used, how they influenced the consultation.RESULTS: The majority of both patients and clinicians reported that images enhanced the consultation. Ratings of communication were generally high, with no differences between those with and without images (with the exception of confidence in treatment plan, which was rated more highly in the image group). However, patients’ and clinicians’ ratings of communication were inversely related only in consultations with images. Methodological shortcomings may underlie the present findings of no difference. It is also possible that using images raised patients’ and clinicians’ expectations and encouraged emotional disclosure, in response to which clinicians were dissatisfied with their performance.CONCLUSIONS: Using images in clinical encounters did not have a negative impact on the consultation, nor did it improve communication or satisfaction. These findings will inform future analysis of behaviour in the video-recorded consultations.