Smartphone Use in Dermatology for Clinical Photography and Consultation: Current Practice and the Law
Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 2017, Forthcoming
22 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 1, 2017
Background: Smartphones are rapidly changing the way doctors capture and communicate clinical information, particularly in highly visual specialties such as dermatology. An understanding of how and why smartphones are currently used in clinical practice is critical in order to evaluate professional and legal risks, and to formulate policies that enable safe use of mobile technologies for the maximal benefit of practitioners and patients.
Methods: Australian dermatologists and dermatology trainees were surveyed on their current practices relating to clinical smartphone use.
Results: Of the 105 respondents, 101 provided useable results. The data show clinical smartphone use is common and frequent, with more than 50% of respondents sending and receiving images on their smartphones at least weekly. Clinical photographs were usually sent via multimedia message or email and were commonly stored on smartphones (46%). Security measures adopted to protect data were limited. There was inadequate documentation of consent for transmission of photographs and advice provided. Only 22% of respondents were aware of clear policies in their workplace regarding smartphone use, and a majority desired further education on digital image management.
Conclusions: Given the frequency of use and the degree of importance placed on the ability to send and receive clinical images, clinical smartphone use will persist and will likely increase over time. Current practices are insufficient to comply with professional and legal obligations, and increase practitioners’ vulnerability to civil and disciplinary proceedings. Further education, realistic policies and adequate software resources are critical to ensure protection of patients, practitioners and the reputation of the dermatological profession.
Keywords: Clinical photography, consent, law, liability, medicolegal, m-health, mobile health, privacy, smartphone, teledermatology
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation