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June 6, 2013

Using Photos to Improve Doctor-Patient Communication

The desire to change or improve ones appearance is quite common. Some people have features that they’ve wanted to change for many years, while others simply want to look more youthful while maintaining their overall appearance.  

Patient Before and After Photos

But no matter what the motivation, it’s the surgeon's responsibility to guide each potential patient appropriately. This requires not only using good judgment and applying years of experience, but also something more: communication.

Great communication between any potential patient and their surgeon is absolutely critical for success. But communication has to go both ways. The surgeon needs to understand, as specifically as possible, what it is that will make the patient happy. At the same time, the patient needs to understand what is realistically achievable, what is safe and, in contrast, what options cannot or should not be pursued.

In my experience, image morphing software is an extremely useful communication tool that can benefit both the doctor and the patient. Our practice uses morphing software frequently to definitively answer questions like these:

Would the patient prefer having a straight bridge of the nose, or one with a small hump preserved?

Should the production nasal tip be altered or not?

Could overall facial proportions be improved with a chin implant, or do we stay with the patient’s preference not to change this area?

Should a brow lift be performed in order to rejuvenate the eyes, or would this make the patient feel that she looks unnatural?

Being able to visualize potential end-results helps establish mutually agreed-upon goals and builds trust between doctors and their patient. Without a visual reference, I’ve found that it is extremely difficult to establish specific goals like these.  However, this process is not without some risk.

We always tell our patients that photo morphing is not an attempt to show them exactly how they will look after any treatment. That goal is too elusive given that the images we use are limited in many ways. Not only are they two dimensional and static, but an individual’s face can look markedly different from one photograph to the next based on changes in lighting, posture, angle, type of camera, etc.

But even with these caveats, morphing is an absolutely essential tool for enhancing communication and clarity between patients and surgeons. And having a clear sense of the surgical goals enables doctors to make as many patients as possible happy with their outcomes.

Tagged: communication, morphing, photos

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