“Click first, care second” photography

“In the era of easily obtainable, easy-to-use digital cameras, any owner of a camera can be a “medical photographer”. Yet professionalism in obtaining medical photographs is much more than the sum of one’s equipment. Digital cameras, especially the ones in smartphones, give clinicians a high degree of autonomy in taking medical photos. Photos taken by clinicians aid diagnosis and teaching, but no matter how well intentioned, clinicians who take medical photos have practical, legal and ethical issues to negotiate. As the distribution of electronic data through the internet, social media and mobile devices becomes easier, appropriate collection, consent and use of medical imagery is essential.1 Lawful image security, storage and disposal practices, mandated by state and territory information acts and records disposal schedules, are paramount to the safe and ethical use of photographic information.

Courtesy: belmonthighlibrary.org

Medical photography often illustrates what people would prefer to keep private,2 is practised when people are vulnerable,3 and departs from other imaging by providing a permanent record of an undignified experience that can identify a patient.2,3 Patients who undergo clinician-taken medical photography can become an unequal partner with their doctor, believing they need to comply with photography as part of their treatment and care.3 In the best-case scenario, medical photos, properly executed in the context of clinical care, can inform distant specialists, record presentations of disease for teaching, and alert clinicians to transient or rarely seen symptoms. At worst, a photo can become a doctor’s memento, in which a patient’s experience is replayed through a morbid show and- tell for curiosity and entertainment. Revealing an intimate area for examination is one thing; but having the area captured on a smartphone may contravene professional standards. This may be occurring in hospitals around Australia.”