Clinical photos can pose risks to dentists and patients

3 July 2017

Technological advancements are not without risk, and this is particularly the case when using mobile devices to take clinical photographs, the Dental Defence Union (DDU) explained today.

In its latest journal, published today, the DDU argues that a personal computer, tablet or mobile device should never be used to capture and store patient data, even if that data is subsequently transferred to the patient record system and deleted from the personal device.

David Lauder, DDU dento-legal adviser, explained:

'The impact that mobile devices have had on society is undeniable. As they become an increasingly common part of our daily lives, it is understandable that many practitioners use them in the dental surgery. But because of the legal considerations associated with the protection of personal data, and the potential for mobile devices to be lost or stolen, it would be wise to avoid taking clinical photographs on a mobile phone.

'Ideally each practice should have a dedicated clinical camera, which could be used both in the practice and when on domiciliary visits. It would need to be kept secure at all times, such as in a locked room or cabinet. When used to take an image of a patient, this should quickly be downloaded onto the clinical record system and then deleted from the camera.'

Additionally, in light of the recent cyber-attack on the NHS, it is vital that all computer systems should have an information security policy in place to protect patient data and a designated person to oversee data protection. Considerations include:

  • Is the IT system adequately protected from unauthorised access, eg is it protected with the use of strong passwords and is the data encrypted?
  • Is the software medico-legally compliant e.g. does it allow you to produce hard copies of records?
  • Does the system provide a full audit trail?
  • Does the practice regularly back up electronic records and check that the back-up is working correctly so that the practice are able to retrieve/restore records if necessary?
  • Does the practice hold a back-up of the electronic files in secure off-site premises?

Also included in the latest issue of the DDU's digital journal, Alison Large looks at how to respond to online criticism while Venessa Holt explains the processes and procedures of undertakings as part of a fitness to practise hearing.

This guidance was correct at publication 03/07/2017. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.


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