Medical science and other sources, such as the media, increasingly inform the general public’s understandings of disease. There is often discordance between these understandings and the diagnostic interpretations of health care practitioners (HCPs). In this paper – based on a supra-analysis of qualitative interview data from two studies of joint pain, including osteoarthritis – we investigate how people imagine and make sense of the pathophysiology of their illness, and how these understandings may affect self-management behaviour. We then explore how HCPs’ use of medical images and models can inform patients’ understanding. In conceptualizing their illness to make sense of their experience of the disease, individuals often used visualizations of their inner body; these images may arise from their own lay understanding, or may be based on images provided by HCPs. When HCPs used anatomical models or medical images judiciously, patients’ orientation to their illness changed. Including patients in a more collaborative diagnostic event that uses medical images and visual models to support explanations about their condition may help them to achieve a more meaningful understanding of their illness and to manage their condition more effectively.
- patient-practitioner communication
- Patient information