Policy for taking and Sharing Images of Patients in New Zealand

February 13, 2017

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Nz guide

In August 2016, the New Zealand Medical Association published a guide to help doctors abide by the Privacy Act when taking smartphone photos of patients.

The key takeaways:

  • Get appropriate consent and document it.
  • Make sure the patient understands the reasons for taking the image, how it will be used, and to whom it will be shown.
  • Make sure you comply with your health service policy is for storing clinical images.
  • Ensure clinical images do not automatically upload to any social media networks or backup sites.
  • Delete any clinical image after saving it onto the health record.
  • Have controls on your smartphone to prevent unauthorised access.

When researching for the guide, one of the authors, Dr Monique Jonas, said, "Taking photographs of a wound has become fairly commonplace in medicine, and it can aid patients care. It's a much clearer way of documenting things. But not all of the DHBs (District Health Boards) have very clear policies for taking photographic images of patients, and how that should be done."

She added, "While some wards had their own cameras, these were often in use and doctors could end up using their own smartphones."

"If you use an individual's device there has to be a way of making sure it gets into the patient's record, and doesn't stay on the camera. It's a patient's private information."


An article on the development of this policy was recently (January 27, 2017) published to The New Zealand Medical Journal. See Applying ethical and legal principles to new technology: the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences' policy 'Taking and Sharing Images of Patients.'

Note, the guide is based on the guide produced by the Australian Medical Association.

Nz guide

Download the guide from the NZMA website.