Privacy and confidentiality
Case Study One
An elderly patient was undergoing cardiac surgery. At the conclusion of the operation, the patient arrested and CPR was commenced, including internal cardiac compressions. A medical student filmed the resuscitation on her iPhone, and posted the footage on Facebook. Although the patient was not identifiable, the student tagged the name of the hospital in her status, “Guess what happened at work today?” A colleague, who was one of the student’s Facebook friends, saw the footage and reported it to management. The matter was reported to the University.
Maintaining confidentiality is an essential part of any clinical consultation. Doctors have an ethical, professional, and legal duty to respect patient rights to privacy and confidentiality regarding their personal and health information, and how it should be used.
Clinical images are “health information”, and must be treated with the same privacy and confidentiality as any other health record or information. They should only be taken with appropriate consent, stored securely, and only disclosed in accordance with the consent given, or if there is a legal obligation to do so.
Using clinical images for any purpose other than that for which consent has been obtained, or sharing them in a non-professional context, is inappropriate. Breach of your obligations under privacy laws may result in a substantial fine, and you also risk being the subject of a complaint to AHPRA, health complaints entity, or an internal hospital investigation.