latest health care news


Image sharing leaves doctors at risk of breaking ethical guidelines, warns MDU

Doctors have been warned that they could be breaching their ethical obligations by sharing clinical information over file sharing apps and websites.

Last week, a review by DeepMind Health, a wing of Google, found that some doctors were being forced to use mobile camera apps like Snapchat to send data across to colleagues they were working with.

However, today a group of medical legal experts, the Medical Defence Union (MDU), has warned that doctors who use this technology to handle and send data could be at risk of breaking ethics guidelines.

“It’s understandable that doctors are using the same technology they find useful in their personal lives to communicate with colleagues professionally,” said Dr Beverley Ward, MDU medico-legal advisor.

“However, they may not be aware that in sharing patient information this way, they run the risk of data getting into the wrong hands.”

Doctors using their own mobile phone to share personal information opens up the potential for the data to be lost or stolen, or for the information to be accidently sent to the wrong recipient.

“Doctors have an ethical duty, set out in GMC guidance and a legal duty under the Data Protection Act to make sure personal information is protected from improper access, disclosure or loss at all times,” Dr Hurley stated. “In addition, doctors could be in breach of their contract, risking disciplinary action by their employer.

“For these reasons, a personal computer, tablet or mobile device shouldn’t be used to capture and store patient data, even if the data is later transferred to the patient record system and deleted from the device.”

The MDU also outlined a series of advice to ensure that doctors avoided getting into legal difficulty over using technology to do their job.

Firstly, it said that images should only be taken on a dedicated clinical camera that is kept secure at all time. An image of the patient should then be quickly downloaded onto the record system before being deleted from the camera.

MDU added that doctors should seek the patients’ consent before they share it with a colleague for a second opinion. The group also said that doctors should ensure that the picture is transmitted and stored on an official and secure IT system.

Finally, the MDU stated that if possible, doctors should ensure that the patient cannot be identified in the image by removing indicators like names and locations, or whether the photo includes an indicator that would give away the person’s identity.

Top Image: NurPhoto, SIPA USA, PA Images

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an NHE columnist? If so, click here.   


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Your personality, your leadership

Your personality, your leadership

Deirdre Wallace, clinical skills manager at UCL Medical School, discusses the importance of learning about leadership and self while at medical school. Approximately five years ago, I was charg more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News


We must ensure every STP succeeds

30/08/2017We must ensure every STP succeeds

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, considers what els... more >
Changing our digital culture and safeguarding patient data

08/08/2017Changing our digital culture and safeguarding patient data

Joanna Smith, chief information officer at Royal Brompton & Harefield N... more >


Improving care at the touch of a screen

08/08/2017Improving care at the touch of a screen

When it comes to dementia, having a calm and safe environment can have a su... more >
681 149x260 NHE Subscribe button

the scalpel's daily blog

Ensuring quality in the new NHS

11/09/2017Ensuring quality in the new NHS

Dr Marion Andrews-Evans, member of the NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) Nurses Forum steering group and executive nurse & quality lead at NHS Gloucestershire CCG, sings ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

healthcare events

events calendar


September 2017

mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
28 29 30 31 1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8

editor's comment

13/06/2017Tackling the major challenges facing the NHS

As you will have gathered from the front cover, a theme that runs throughout this edition of NHE is about empowering and involving the workforce in order to deliver innovative change across the system.  Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, highlights on page 16 the importance of sustainability and transformation partnerships/plans (STPs) being implemented and delivered with clinical input at their core.  And the Health Foundation’s... read more >