Smartphone Use in Dermatology for Clinical Photography and Consultation: Current Practice and the Law

Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 2017, Forthcoming

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 17/44

22 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2017

See all articles by Lisa Abbott

Lisa Abbott

The University of Sydney Law School

Roger Magnusson

The University of Sydney Law School

Emma Gibbs

The University of Sydney - NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre

Saxon Smith

The University of Sydney - Sydney Medical School

Date Written: June 1, 2017

Abstract

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

Abbott, Lisa and Magnusson, Roger and Gibbs, Emma and Smith, Saxon, Smartphone Use in Dermatology for Clinical Photography and Consultation: Current Practice and the Law (June 1, 2017). Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 2017, Forthcoming, Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 17/44, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2979064

Lisa Abbott

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Roger Magnusson (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Emma Gibbs

The University of Sydney - NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre ( email )

ABN 15 211 513 464
Locked Bag 77
Camperdown, NSW 1450
Australia

Saxon Smith

The University of Sydney - Sydney Medical School ( email )

Edward Ford Building A27
The University of Sydney
Sydney, New South Wales NSW 2006
Australia

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