The Ten Commandments of Smartphone Clinical Photography

September 20, 2017

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After conducting a thorough review of Australian legislation, guidelines, and literature on the topic of clinical photography and patient privacy we found practical advice wanting. As such we have developed the Ten Commandments of Smartphone Clinical Photography - Australian Edition.

Why Take Clinical Photos On A Mobile?

You would likely not be reading this if you didn't already recognise the many benefits a smartphone camera provides in the efficient delivery of patient care. So, we'll simply summarise the obvious benefits of smartphone clinical photography:

  • Accelerates access to specialist care,
  • Enhances education for trainees,
  • Facilitates efficient triaging of patients, and
  • Documents what has taken place.

Almost Everyone Is Doing It … Incorrectly

Albeit that doesn't make it right, it does clearly highlight the value of smartphone clinical photography in the modern clinical and surgical healthcare setting, and further places a genuine emphasis on getting it right by forming safe and secure practices.

  • In 2014, 65% of physicians polled admitted to taking medical images on their smartphones1.
  • In 2016, 73% of doctors polled admitted to storing clinical photos among their "personal" photos2.

We, therefore, take the longer view that it is moot to ask: "Is it reasonable to use smartphones for clinical photography?" Rather, how can such technology be reasonably (and safely) employed by medical practitioners to further improve their patients' outcomes?

The Ten Commandments

  1. Thou shalt only take photos if there is a purpose/obvious need.
  2. Thou shalt inform thy patient of their photo's expected use.
  3. Thou shalt always obtain, record and document patient or guardian consent (assuming capacity).
  4. Thou shalt prevent photos from leaving Australia (turn off thy auto backup).
  5. Thou shalt not store thy clinical photos in thy gallery alongside personal photos.
  6. Thou shalt put a passcode on thy phone.
  7. Thou shalt setup the ability to remotely wipe data and disable thy phone if it is lost or stolen.
  8. Thou shalt securely store medical photos in thy patients' medical record.
  9. Thou shalt not send photos unencrypted (attached to an SMS or Email will not do).
  10. Thou shalt provide patient access to photos if requested.

The full article contains a more detailed discussion on each of the ten commandments. The analysis includes a review of some of the legislation and many guidelines, specific actions you can take for protecting yourself, and there is also a bonus 11th commandment! Download the full article.



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1 The role of smartphones in the recording and dissemination of medical images. Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine: 3:2:40–45, 2014
2 Should 'smart phones' be used for patient photography? Plastic Surgery. Spring 2016, Vol. 24 Issue 1, p32-34. 3p.