take an image of a patient, be sure to follow your local organisation’s own policy. This will inevitably include obtaining the informed consent of the patient. Another significant vulnerability in this

case was the complete absence of appropriate documentation in the medical records. A third party reviewing the patient’s records or drug chart would have no idea of the presence/nature of the swelling or the rationale for commencing intravenous antibiotics. The doctor in this case could have

protected herself from criticism by considering the alternative resources available to her. She could have asked another colleague to carry out an urgent review. And if she felt a picture of the swelling was essential, she should have followed her Trust’s policy on the taking of images, which would have ensured patient consent was obtained and confidentiality was not compromised.

Data storage Another aspect to consider when using your smartphone is the storage of sensitive information on the device. The GMC’s guidance Making and using visual and audio recordings of patients is a useful reference here. It highlights the need to make appropriate secure arrangements for storing visual/audio recordings. If you use your smartphone for personal messages/emails, take extra care to ensure any patient-related correspondence is kept separate. Again, check your local organisation’s policy

here as it is likely to forbid the storage of sensitive patient data of any kind on personal and possibly also NHS mobile devices. This includes text messages, photos, videos, emails or other files/documents. The policy may allow for limited use of personal devices but it is likely to demand devices are not directly connected to the organisation’s network and are compatible with NHS mail security standards. It is also advisable to activate your phone’s

passcode lock with a limit set on the number of failed

attempts allowed. These precautions are particularly invaluable should your smartphone be lost or stolen.

Stay smart Life as an FY doctor is busy and messaging platforms and apps remain a valuable resource. But before sending or receiving any message/ photo relating to your clinical practice, take a step back and ensure you are not compromising patient confidentiality. Remember you do not need to mention a patient by name or show their face for the information to constitute a breach. If you are seeking general advice from a

colleague or reviewing the latest clinical or professional guidance, then there is no reason why your smartphone can’t act as a useful aid. But do remember to note any relevant information in the patient’s medical records. And above all, always comply with GMC guidance and your local organisation’s policies.

Dr Naeem Nazem is a medical adviser at MDDUS and editor of FYi

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