Can We Ask Patients to Send in Photographs of their Physical Concerns?

Yes, you can. Practices may find that it is necessary to ask patients to send in photographs of areas of their body that are causing concerns. This is necessary for healthcare purposes to ensure patients are still receiving the care they need whilst maintaining virtual consultations as much as possible.

 

Therefore, practices can ask patients to take a photograph of the area of their body. This can be uploaded to the patient’s medical record as it allows clinicians to maintain factual information upon which decisions were made. You do not need patient consent, but you should let the patient know a record will be kept. If there are any identifiable features within the photograph, where possible, these should be cropped out before it is added to the patients record. 

Additionally, where a photograph of an intimate area is required that may cause more harm if a breach were to occur, practices may wish to destroy these particular images and write a detailed description in the records, similar to how it might have been done with a face to face consultation. 

 

We advise that where possible a secure method such as AccuRx, TPP Airmid App or other reviewed apps such as Hospify are used to ensure the information is encrypted in transit. Where this is not possible, patients can be asked to email in the photograph, however they must be made aware there is a risk of interception due to the email not being encrypted.

 

We advise that, in order to minimise the risk of identification in the event of interception, patients should be asked to only include their NHS number in the subject line / body of the email. They should not provide their name, DOB and / or address as identifying means.

Additionally, practices should add the following to their privacy policy and direct patients to this when asking for the photograph:

 

During COVID-19 we may ask you to send a photograph of you bruise / skin condition that you are concerned about whilst we conduct virtual consultations. This photograph will be used by the clinician to determine any medical treatment necessary and will be added to your medical record. 

Please note that, where this is sent via email, it may not be secure we therefore we ask that you only include your NHS number alongside your photograph in the email. The photograph should only be of the area requested and no other person should be visible in the shot.