Cell phone pics in the doc's office: To ban or not to ban?

Ten years ago, most patients wouldn't have even considered bringing a camera into their doctor's office. The advent of smartphones, however, has changed that. So much so, in fact, that an article published this week in American Medical News asks if doctors should ban patients from taking cellphone pictures in their offices.

New York-based attorney Andrew Blustein told amednews that doctors need to take every precaution they can think of to prevent such uncomfortable situations. For instance, he said, doctors should post signs making it clear to both patients and employees that picture taking is banned throughout their facilities--including in the waiting area and in exam rooms--no matter what. In addition, a doctor needs to make sure that his or her entire staff is trained in knowing and enforcing the facility's chosen privacy policy, Blustein said.

Such an issue seems especially relevant, considering the Department of Homeland Security's recently released report highlighting the risks of using mobile, devices such as smartphones and tablets, in a healthcare setting. While the report tends to focus more on the dangers of malware infections causing network outages, it does suggest that mobile devices be routed through an entirely separate and secure network from one used for everyday mobile device use. Aventura, Fla.-based cardiologist Ariel Soffer, who was interviewed by amednews, has just that, although he also said that he encourages his patients to take pictures in the office (at least ones pertaining to their own care).

What's more, a recent survey conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv University concluded that devices like smartphones are not ideal for privacy in any setting, as they create an illusion of privacy in public for users, according to a post in Science Blog.

To learn more:
- here's the amednews article
- here's the DHS report (.pdf)
- read the Science Blog post

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