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Teledermatology and clinical photography: safeguarding patient privacy and mitigating medico-legal risk

Paul Stevenson, Anna R Finnane and H Peter Soyer
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (5): 198-200. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00996
Published online: 21 March 2016

Summary

  • Capturing clinical images is becoming more prevalent in everyday clinical practice, and dermatology lends itself to the use of clinical photographs and teledermatology.
  • “Store-and-forward”, whereby clinical images are forwarded to a specialist who later responds with an opinion on diagnosis and management is a popular form of teledermatology.
  • Store-and-forward teledermatology has proven accurate and reliable, accelerating the process of diagnosis and treatment and improving patient outcomes.
  • Practitioners’ personal smartphones and other devices are often used to capture and communicate clinical images.
  • Patient privacy can be placed at risk with the use of this technology.
  • Practitioners should obtain consent for taking images, explain how they will be used, apply appropriate security in their digital communications, and delete images and other data on patients from personal devices after saving these to patient health records.
  • Failing to use appropriate security precautions poses an emerging medico-legal risk for practitioners.

  • Paul Stevenson1
  • Anna R Finnane1
  • H Peter Soyer1,2

  • 1 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD
  • 2 Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, QLD

Correspondence: phstevenson@gmail.com

Acknowledgements: 

This research was conducted with the support of the Centre of Research Excellence in Telehealth funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (APP1061183). We thank Kathy Dallest, Centre of Research Excellence in Telehealth, University of Queensland, School of Medicine, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane, for contributing to this article.

Competing interests:

H. Peter Soyer is a shareholder of e-derm-consult GmbH and MoleMap by Dermatologists. He provides teledermatological reports regularly for both companies.

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