Do medical images aid understanding and recall of medical information? An experimental study comparing the experience of viewing no image, a 2D medical image and a 3D medical image alongside a diagnosis

Patient Educ Couns. 2017 Jun;100(6):1120-1127. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2016.12.034. Epub 2016 Dec 30.


Objective: This study compared the experience of viewing 3D medical images, 2D medical images and no image presented alongside a diagnosis.

Methods: We conducted two laboratory experiments, each with 126 healthy participants. Participants heard three diagnoses; one accompanied by 3D medical images, one accompanied by 2D medical images and one with no image. Participants completed a questionnaire after each diagnosis rating their experience. In Experiment 2, half of the participants were informed that image interpretation can be susceptible to errors.

Results: Participants preferred to view 3D images alongside a diagnosis (p<0.001) and reported greater understanding (p<0.001), perceived accuracy (p<0.001) and increased trust (p<0.001) when the diagnosis was accompanied by an image compared to no image. There was no significant difference in trust between participants who were informed of errors within image interpretation and those who were not.

Conclusion: When presented alongside a diagnosis, medical images may aid patient understanding, recall and trust in medical information.

Practical considerations: Medical images may be a powerful resource for patients that could be utilised by clinicians during consultations.

Keywords: Doctor- patient communication; Patient trust in medical information; Patient understanding; Recall of medical information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Trust*
  • Young Adult