Smart Phone Photos are TroubleA FIFTH of Australian hospital doctors take photographs of patients using their smartphones, new data shows, potentially exposing themselves and their hospital to legal ramifications because the images aren’t secure.

The study, performed by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, showed that 48% of 170 clinicians from a tertiary hospital took medical photographs, 20% of them on personal mobile phones.

However, only 62% of clinicians who photographed patients for medical files indicated they always got consent, and written consent occurred in only 36 cases, compared with verbal consent in 78 cases.

The majority of surveyed staff, which included doctors and nurses, printed the images for the patient’s file or stored them on the hospital’s hard drive, but a small number of images were stored on mobile phones, memory sticks and personal computers.

The authors said staff who photographed patients on mobile phones and failed to delete the images risked the pictures being used beyond the original purpose.

“If this hospital ignores staffs’ lack of policy compliance and mobile phone use, patients’ personal information is at risk of being irreversibly distributed into the public domain,” they wrote.

“The great risk of leaving images on a mobile phone is that if the information is lost or transmitted to an unauthorised source, the images could be published across the world in seconds.”

They recommended hospitals implement policy that specifically addressed image capture on personal equipment, especially smart phones and tablet devices.

Acknowledgement: Australian Health Review 2013; 37: 437-441