The Benefits and Dangers of Taking and Sharing Patient Images With Personal Devices

Mobile sharing of clinical images can save lives, but current software solutions can’t prevent HIPAA-violations when it comes to patient images. Here’s one device that can.
Last year, Canadian Healthcare Technology published an article about the benefits–and dangers–of taking and sharing patient images with smartphones. The article, Privacy at stake as doctors use smartphone photos, highlighted cases where real-time image-sharing by doctors via smartphone may have saved lives–and where inappropriate sharing has severely compromised patient privacy. It also documents multiple published studies showing that a majority of doctors have patient photos on their smartphones.
Mobile sharing of clinical images can save lives
The upside of the trend of doctors using BYODs in the workplace: rapid visual communication between healthcare professionals can dramatically improve patient care and outcomes. For example, the article discussed a doctor who saw a coin-like foreign body in a child’s esophagus, a condition that could be treated the next day. But then the doctor texted a smartphone photo of the x-ray to an ENT, only to discover it was not a coin, but a watch battery–and a delay in removing it could’ve proved fatal.
In another positive case of patient image sharing, a doctor who texted a photo of a patient’s rash to a dermatologist–and discovered that it was a rare condition that can quickly turn fatal unless treated.
Software solutions don’t stop HIPAA violations and inappropriate sharing
But other cases of image-sharing were far from appropriate–like the urologist who snapped an inappropriate photo of an unconscious patient, and then shared it with friends and acquaintances. In fact, survey results reported by Canadian Healthcare Technology show a shockingly high level of what in the United States would be deemed as HIPAA violations, many of them accidental. “When plastic surgeons in Alberta surveyed colleagues throughout the country, they discovered that almost three quarters keep patient photos next to vacation snaps, pet pictures, and other personal images on their phones. And a quarter have accidentally shown the patient shots to friends or family, a newly published study by the Calgary specialists concluded.”
To address these problems, the Canadian company Clearwater Clinical released a government-approved app that allows medical staff to take pictures and then upload and share via a secure cloud server.
However, because this app–and the others like it–only offer a software solution, they cannot prevent staff from accidentally or deliberately taking photos using a different app that is currently on their device. Since photos taken outside a secure app are not stored on a secure server, there is still the potential for patient images ending up on an employee’s device–or even ending up on social media.
That’s what why a hardware solution, like the Private Eye case, is necessary to fully protect patient privacy. Because the Private Eye case controls the actual hardware of the device, it prevents pictures from being taken unless they are taken through the HIPAA-compliant MyMobileHealthCare app. No other patient privacy app offers this level of protection.
Learn more about how the Private Eye case and MMHC app can help your clinic ensure HIPAA-compliance for patient images at an affordable cost.

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Mobile sharing of clinical images can save lives, but current software solutions can’t prevent HIPAA-violations when it comes to patient images. Here’s one device that can.