Are you illegally taking clinical images with your mobile device?

Whipping out your mobile phone, taking a quick photo of that suspicious rash and texting it to a colleague might not be the way to go according to the Australian Medical Association (AMA).

This week the AMA has released a document Clinical images and the use of personal mobile devices which provides doctors and medical students with guidelines on the proper use of their personal mobile device when taking clinical images. Although intended for the medical profession, perhaps all health professionals could take a leaf out of this book.

Let’s face it…. It’s not just doctors and medical students who are using their personal mobile devices to take images or video footage in a clinical setting. The key points in the AMA document are divided into two parts….

1.    Collection, use and disclosure of clinical images taken with a personal mobile device

  • Obtain appropriate consent, making sure the patient understands the reason for taking the image, how it will be used, and to whom it will be shown
  • Document the consent on the health record, and ensure that it is within your hospital or health services’ requirements for written consent
  • Never send the image to anyone else unless you have the patient’s consent to do so or if you are permitted by law to do so for the purpose of their clinical management
  • Patient privacy has been breached if the clinical image is sent to the wrong person, and advice should be sought from the hospital or health service management or your medical defence organisation

2.    Storage and security of clinical images

  • You must make sure that any image you take is not automatically uploaded to any social media networks or back up sites, and delete the image after saving it onto the patient’s health record
  • You need to know what your hospital or health services’ policy is for storing digital images
  • Ensure that you have controls such as a password on your mobile device to prevent unauthorised access

The AMA guide also contains a flow chart for the decision making process around collecting, using and storing clinical images, as well as case studies which give details on how to avoid getting yourself into trouble!

Amanda – Founder MHC :-)

Image: NEC Corporation of America – flickr

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