A new picture-sharing phone and tablet application for doctors and medical students is raising concerns about patient privacy in Australia. Figure 1 allows sharing of medical and clinical pictures between health practitioners to assist colleagues with patient diagnoses and to aid medical students.
But, says Bruce Arnold, assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Canberra, Figure 1’s privacy policies rely too much on individual users to keep distinguishing features of patients confidential. “They’re waiving all responsibility, (saying) it’s not our problem, it’s the doctor’s problem, or possibly it’s the patient’s problem,” he says.
The app includes tools for users to blackout distinguishing features like eyes and tattoos. But, says Arnold, “A lot of doctors or students probably won’t be very good at blacking out the tell-tale spots”. Annie Williams, a representative of the company that designed the app, says strict guidelines for users and the developers are in place to protect patient identities. But the Australian Broadcasting Corporation found many pictures appear to show distinguishable faces.
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