Rural patients document experience of living with chronic disease through photographs

A new "photo journeys" program in Canada is giving clinicians insight into the day-to-day routines of patients living with chronic illness, according to a research article published in the journal Chronic Illness.

For the program, 10 older patients with atrial fibrillation living in rural areas were given digital cameras to document their daily experiences. Researchers asked the patients to take daily photos and complete personal journey logs for six months. The photographs illuminated participants' daily experience traveling to appointments and dealing with symptoms of their condition.

"These photo journeys give patients a voice and makes visible what can be very invisible when someone is suffering," said Kathy Rush, PhD, RN, a professor at the school of nursing at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus, who started the program.

"The photos gave us access to their days, to things that wouldn't be reported in a doctor's office, or on a medical chart, but were an important part of their day-to-day care," said Dr. Rush. "The images brought to life their social supports and the gaps in service."

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm caused by rapid beating. It is the second most common cardiac condition in America, affecting more than 2 million people annually.

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