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Gavin Miller

FRCS Eng (Plast), European Diploma in Hand Surgery

Consultant Plastic and Hand Surgeon

G Miller Hand Surgery and Claremont Private Hospital, England, UK

A Primal approach to educating patients about anatomy and surgery

To explain why he considers Primal Pictures' 3D Anatomy products so invaluable, hand surgeon Gavin Miller turns to an old, familiar expression...

I do think a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when it comes to getting over complex ideas and concepts to non-medics.

“And of course”, Miller continues, “medicine’s full of those, isn’t it? It’s often difficult enough for clinicians to fully grasp what’s going on, and to get ideas across and the complexity of the situation just in word form is very challenging.”

For the past decade, Mr Miller, a plastic surgeon who specializes in hand surgery in Sheffield, UK, has used Primal Pictures anatomy images to help explain to patients the surgery they face, as well as in presentations to a variety of audiences, ranging from doctors and medical students to lawyers and members of the public.

“I use it quite extensively” Mr Miller says. “If you’re giving a talk or trying to explain an operation or a condition, then anatomy forms a very important part of that.”

The Primal Pictures anatomical images are especially important in patient and student education, says Mr Miller, who worked in a university teaching hospital in Sheffield for 17 years before going into independent practice, performing surgery at Claremont Private Hospital in Sheffield.

Patients are interested in the problem they have and what you can do to help, he says. They want to know in a lot of detail as this helps them understand their condition and proposed treatment options and make important decisions about their health.

Mr Miller, who first bought a Primal Pictures CD-ROM that detailed the anatomy of the hand, eventually moved up to the DVD version with all of the anatomy modules and now has a subscription to the online Anatomy.TV through the Royal College of Surgeons of England

“It’s one of the most useful resources that I have to show patients relevant anatomy, especially if I’m going to operate, so they understand what structures might be at risk,” he says. “It takes a little bit of extra time to do, but you get the message across much better if you do it that way because patients can really understand.”

Mr Miller also includes images in reports he files as a medicolegal expert in personal injury and clinical negligence claims involving hand and plastic surgery cases.

As a medical student, he remembers, words were the main way complex anatomy concepts were conveyed. “All we had were pretty dry textbooks with the occasional image or diagram to help you try to put these three-dimensional concepts in your mind, and the dissection lab where, in those days, the anatomy was distorted by preservation techniques,” he recalls.

That’s why that first Primal Pictures CD-ROM was “revolutionary,” Mr Miller says. And with the technological evolution to DVD and online, he calls today’s sophisticated anatomy images “a revelation.”

If you're actually looking at the body in real time, with something like Primal Pictures, for visual learners like me the brain understands it considerably quicker because it can relate in three dimensions the anatomy you want to look at, Mr Miller says.

Mr Miller is so convinced that more of his colleagues should be incorporating images and videos in patient education that he wrote a blog post that included Primal Pictures images titled, of course: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words. In addition to explaining why he thinks using images to explain complex medical conditions and procedures is important, he offers some practical tips to help his colleagues do it effectively, such as: If using a fixed monitor, and patients cannot see the screen easily from the other side of the desk or office, get up and invite the patient to sit in your chair so they can get close to the screen.

As a surgeon, Mr Miller appreciates that Primal Pictures representatives have solicited his feedback on Anatomy.TV as part of their continuing efforts to make it better and more useful for professionals.

“I think it’s a wonderful resource,” he says. “I have seen few products that compare to it, really. I’ve seen similar products on the internet, but I don’t think they can compare to the Primal products in terms of the depth and the ingenuity, and the amount of research involved, to be honest. It’s an extremely well thought-out package. A helluva lot of work has gone into it.”