Diagnosis by unsecured smartphone risks confidentiality

DOCTORS who photograph skin conditions using unsecured, personal mobile phones could be breaching patient privacy, new Queensland research warns.

In an article in the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers from the University of Queensland and Princess Alexandra Hospital, led by Paul Stevenson, say using telemedicine for diagnosing dermatological conditions was popular because it sped up treatment and improved patient outcomes, particularly in regional areas where there are few specialists.

However doctors and medical institutions endangered patient privacy, as well as their own indemnity insurance and confidentiality clauses of their employment contracts, if they failed to protect confidential patient records by using unsecured mobile phones and emails.

"Practitioners' personal smartphones and other devices are often used to capture and communicate clinical images," they found.

"Failing to use appropriate security precautions poses an emerging medico-legal risk for practitioners."

Brisbane Times