POLL: Surgeons use phone pics 

DOCTORS are increasingly using smartphones to take images of injuries and illness.

Surgeons from the Royal Newcastle Centre have reported the results of a study of hand surgery patients in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia.

They surveyed 140 hand surgery patients on their attitude to the use of camera phone images for communication between doctors.

‘‘Smartphones are now ubiquitous,’’ the report said.

‘‘Young doctors commonly send images via smartphones as an adjunct to diagnosis and management.

‘‘Our patients are increasingly taking smartphone photographs of their injuries, post-operative wounds and X-rays.’’

The Hunter New England Health hand surgeons found patients were ‘‘overwhelmingly positive’’ about the use of photos for treatment and teaching purposes.

The majority, 97per cent, of patients agreed or strongly agreed that such images may improve the accuracy of communication.

‘‘Our patients are as accepting of the transmission and display of clinical hand photographs in these situations as they are of the transmission and display of radiological images,’’ the report said.

‘‘They [photos] can permit immediate decision making by an off-site specialist ... [and] can prevent the distress of repeated pre-operative examinations.’’

However, the study’s authors said there were practical, legal and ethical issue for clinicians.

The doctors were responding to a similar study by Melbourne researchers, who found seven out of eight doctors took a photo for a patient’s medical record.

‘‘We suspect that if genital areas were photographed on a mobile phone, the perceptions and reactions of patients may be different,’’ the Melbourne report’s authors said.

‘‘A warning and discussion about the pitfalls of consent and incorrect or unethical image capture, use, storage and retention is timely, relevant and critical.’’

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