13 October 2009
Q. Can I take pictures of patients with a camera phone and send them to colleagues/specialists for an opinion or advice?
If you are working on your own and are far from a specialist centre it is sometimes very useful to obtain an opinion from a colleague. This is particularly relevant in the field of oral medicine when transient conditions such as ulcers which may present and require diagnosis but may not be present days or weeks later when the patient finally obtains an out patient appointment with the specialist. Equally suspicious white or red patches would merit an opinion as to the urgency of their referral.
Whilst it is tempting to capture these various intra-oral situations with a handheld mobile camera phone it is important to appreciate that the making of that image creates a record. This electronic record has the same quality of confidentiality as all other records and should be managed accordingly. Can you be sure that only the intended recipient will be see the image? Unless there is encryption software on the phone, confidential material could be available to anyone who accesses the device especially if it is lost or stolen.
The images, even on high resolution camera phones, may not be sufficient to make a diagnosis and may even lead to misleading advice being given. There is also the issue of storage since as a record it will require the same degree of permanence as other records. It cannot therefore simply be deleted.