What is the risk to safety and confidentiality in light of advancing mobile technology for patients undergoing hospital treatment in New Zealand? : a descriptive exploratory study.
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
Background This descriptive explorative study had two aims. Firstly, to survey the use of mobile phones by health professionals for photographing patients, their body parts/organs or confidential patient information in the clinical setting of a DHB. The second aim was to explore the perceptions and attitudes of health professionals in regard to the DHB’s policy on photographic recordings. It was hoped that results would show whether there was a need for update of local policy, which would in turn provide clarification of the responsibilities that health professionals have in maintaining the confidentiality of patient images on personal mobile devices. Overseas evidence suggests that ownership and use of mobile phones for their photographic capabilities in the healthcare setting is high. However, until now, no research has been conducted in New Zealand. The clinical mobile phone photography practices of health professionals in New Zealand has major implications for maintaining the confidentiality of the patient record and the integrity of the medical photography profession. Method An online survey comprising 36 questions was distributed via email to all nursing, medical and allied health staff members employed at the local DHB. The survey was open for responses for a three week period from late September to mid October 2015. Key findings 951 completed responses were received. A third of respondents (33.1%, n=306) had taken photographs of patient or patient information using a mobile phone yet written consent was obtained by only 28.4% (n=87) of respondents. When consent was obtained, verbal was the most popular method (85.9%, n=263) with 40.8% (n=125) of respondents rarely or never recording in the patient’s notes that they took photographs. The most common location for storing images taken personally was on the mobile phone itself (45.7%, n=106). Respondents were more likely to take non-identifiable images than identifiable images on their mobile phones. Them most common reason for taking photographs of patient or patient information was for input from another health professional (26.5%, n=252), 17.3% (n=164) for education/training purposes and 9.5% (n=90) for presentations. Three-quarters of respondents were either unaware of local policy regarding photographic recordings or were aware of it but had not read it. The majority of respondents thought that the patient owned images taken on health professionals’ mobile phones (65.2%, n=691). Conclusion Despite being the first study of its kind in New Zealand, evidence suggests that a proportion of health professionals are utilising mobile phone technology to perform photography in the clinical setting. Most health professionals are aware of their responsibilities surrounding maintenance of patient privacy. However, as mobile phone photography is becoming increasingly common in patient care, evidence here suggests that not all health professionals understand the value they hold and are unaware of their responsibilities for managing the safe storage and movement of these images. Update of local policy in line with professional medical photography guidelines is required to match advancement in technological capabilities available to health professionals. This would improve the integrity and safe handling of images that form part of the confidential patient record.