Impact of the presence of medical equipment in images on viewers' perceptions of the trustworthiness of an individual on-screen

Moyez Jiwa, Millett Stephan, Xingqiong Meng, Vivien Hewitt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: It is now common practice for doctors to consult patients by means other than face-to-face, often appearing before the patient on a computer screen. Also, many websites are using depictions of health professionals to increase the credibility of their services. Being trustworthy is an essential attribute for successful ehealth services. Little is known about which depicted accessories make a health professional appear more trustworthy. Objective: To estimate the odds of an individual on-screen being rated trustworthy when viewed in a static image holding or wearing specific items of medical equipment. Methods: We surveyed consecutive people attending community pharmacies to collect prescriptions in Western Australia. Respondents were presented with a series of 10 photographs, generated at random, of a man with varying numbers and combinations of medical equipment: stethoscope, reflex hammer, surgical scrubs, otoscope, and pen. They were then invited to rate the man as honest, trustworthy, honorable, moral, ethical, or genuine, or a combination of these, on the Source Credibility Scale. Results: A total of 168 of 250 people gave informed consent, for a participation rate of 67.2%. There were 102 female and 66 male respondents. Of the 168 respondents, 96 (57%) were born in Australia and 102 (60.7%) were attending medical practices with more than one general practitioner. The mean age of respondents was 47 (SD 16) years (range 26-92 years). When only 1 item was present in an image, the stethoscope was associated with the highest odds for the person being considered honest (odds ratio [OR] 2.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.6-4.3), trustworthy (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.4-3.8), honorable (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.6-4.5), moral (OR 2.4 95% CI 1.4-4.1), ethical (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.5-4.6), and genuine (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.0-3.1). The presence of a stethoscope increased the odds of the person being rated in a positive light in all photographs in which it was included. Conclusions: When an individual is portrayed in a static image, concurrent presentation of 3 or more items of medical equipment, and especially a stethoscope, is likely to exert a positive influence on the viewers' perceptions of the qualities of the person depicted.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e100
    JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


    • Doctors
    • Icons
    • Semiotics
    • Stethoscope
    • Trustworthiness


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