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Teledermatology and clinical photography: safeguarding patient privacy and mitigating medico-legal risk

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Teledermatology is an innovative model of health care that has the potential to deliver significant benefits for both patients and medical practitioners. These include increased access to specialist services and reductions in travel times, waiting times and costs for patients, and reduced professional isolation and improved access to professional education for doctors.

“Store-and-forward” is a popular form of teledermatology. It involves capturing a still clinical image that is forwarded to a specialist, who later responds with an opinion on diagnosis and management. Teledermatology at the Princess Alexandra Hospital is a successful example of this model of care.1,2

As dermatology is a visually oriented specialty, using digital images for diagnosis is a natural fit. Numerous studies have already shown the diagnostic accuracy and reliability of store-and-forward teledermatology. More rapid diagnosis and initiation of treatment coupled with improved patient outcomes have also been demonstrated.1,3,4

The growth of store-and-forward services coincides with the increasing use of email, faster Internet speeds, the development of electronic health records and the advent of smartphones.…