What is the Patient Thinking? What is the Doctor Thinking?


I’ve often wondered what patients are thinking when they come to see me for an outpatient visit. Are they worried about symptoms that I think are of no consequence? Are they not aware that they should be very concerned about symptoms they think are trivial?

Although I routinely ask patients if there is anything more they would like to discuss after I have talked to them and examined them, for this project I had them write down what they were thinking when they came to see me. I then transposed what they wrote onto the photos I took of them, and I added to the photo comments from my office note.   

The images-with-words demonstrate that the patients have a variety of thoughts related to a clinic visit, ranging from “I’m hungry and want to get out of here” to “Have I lost enough weight?” to “I’m anxious about the pain I’ve recently had.” My thoughts are more objective and sometimes address, sometimes do not address, the patient’s concerns. The photographs add another dimension—an impression of the interactions that cannot be expressed in words. 

The combination of patient comments, physician comments and photographs display in a graphic fashion the personal interactions that take place in an out-patient setting. Hopefully, they will help both patient and physician to better understand and optimize the patient-physician interaction.