I have witnessed numerous encounters where physicians take into account the cognitive load theory and humans’ finite capacity to process. In the outpatient setting, several times a day the physician I was working with would pull up Google to search up images to show patients what exactly was going on with their condition, what certain treatment modalities looked like, or what their prescription bottles may look like so it was easier for them to identify the medication when going to retrieve it. I enjoyed this technique because the patients seemed to comprehend much more easily, and it was very useful for concepts that patients, and even myself as a medical student, were not familiar with. I saw physicians show patients images of electromyograms, different procedures, specific pill bottles, and various physical therapy exercises. In the inpatient setting, I witnessed much more of physicians using the whiteboard to draw out different organ systems (most recently on hepatology, the hepatologist would often draw the hepatic portal tract, or the biliary tree) to help patients understand what was going on in their bodies. Patients seemed to greatly appreciate this since often times they were hospitalized for complex conditions that would be hard to understand without a simple visual. Appealing to multiple senses will enhance the learner’s experience, especially when given so much new, often unfamiliar information.
Something I learned in a class I recently took about physician-patient communication is that the timing for when you pair the visuals with the textual information is very important. One example provided in a reading was that showing a picture of “vasculitis” or “bronchospasm,” two complex conditions, with their respective words at the same time is much more beneficial for the patient’s comprehension than if you were to separate the two in time. I can see this really coming into play in the inpatient setting where the patient is bombarded with a myriad of medical terminology and cannot sort out what means what in their heads. A thought I had for the future in terms of innovating care delivery was designing a picture book for very medically complicated patients to clearly lay out what symptoms correlate with which condition, and what treatments are associated with each.