Media in Medicine: I Love Film

This New England Journal of Medicine article is another one worth sharing about the use of media in medicine. Today’s plate is film. This medium of communication is a personal favorite of mine. It is also my favorite learning tool.

It is not uncommon to use video as a medium to communicate medicine, to educate, to share knowledge, to present theories, report breakthroughs. Though most commonly, the point of view is that of the professional, student, or authority on health issues. But this time Dr. Gretchen Berland of the Yale University School of Medicine aptly rotated the camera sharing with all of us a stark portrait, “The View from the Other Side—Patients, Doctors, and the Power of a Camera.”


As an internist, I was disturbed by the contrast between those two scenes, the second revealing the depth of Buckwalter’s concerns and fears, none of which were apparent during the conversation with his doctor. In the later tape, Buckwalter’s struggle is palpable. If such stark contrasts are common, how much do I really know about my own patients? Probably far less than I care to admit.

I learned that participants generally need more than a few days or weeks with a video camera to record their experiences adequately; the unfurling of one’s life requires time.

film is a medium conducive to exploring the smallest details that make up a life. These details are often overlooked, or missed, in clinical research conducted in more traditional ways. As nuances of a patient’s experience are compressed into standardized responses, statistical power is achieved, but depth is lost.

Perhaps a first-person perspective, recorded from the wheelchair, would reveal a world rarely seen by most nondisabled persons. Buckwalter had been the first to volunteer for the project, followed by Vicki Elman and Ernie Wallengren. All lived in the Los Angeles area and had heard about the project through the UCLA medical community. Buckwalter used a wheelchair as a result of a cervical spinal cord injury, Elman because of multiple sclerosis, and Wallengren because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

You may click on the following screen captures, on the left to view the video and on the right to listen to the interviews done on Dr. Berland, the researcher and Dr. Buckwater, one of the volunteer participants in this study.



This again is one other example of the use of media in medical advancement, an important one at that. Here it was used as a witness and reminder to be vigilant in improving the quality of patient care. It promotes awareness in many respects about the daily struggles, both inward and outward, of patients and people with disabilities having to deal with those who are supposed to help them and work with them but end up adding to their unrelieved suffering.

I love film.

Related—Media In Medicine: Dr. Stark, ZocDoc, iMedix

Media In Medicine: What of the Insurance Companies and Other Issues?

“How Web 2.0 is Changing Medicine”, an addendum

Media In Medicine: More Than Mending The Broken

2.0 in Medicine and Definitely Beyond

Upcoming—Media In Medicine: Sprinkle Some Imagination


~ by Karina Descartin on 20 February 2008.

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