Arch Plast Surg.  2021 May;48(3):295-304. 10.5999/aps.2021.00262.

Safe clinical photography: best practice guidelines for risk management and mitigation

  • 1Department of Plastic Surgery, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH, USA
  • 2College of Nursing, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA


Clinical photography is an essential component of patient care in plastic surgery. The use of unsecured smartphone cameras, digital cameras, social media, instant messaging, and commercially available cloud-based storage devices threatens patients’ data safety. This paper Identifies potential risks of clinical photography and heightens awareness of safe clinical photography. Specifically, we evaluated existing risk-mitigation strategies globally, comparing them to industry standards in similar settings, and formulated a framework for developing a risk-mitigation plan for avoiding data breaches by identifying the safest methods of picture taking, transfer to storage, retrieval, and use, both within and outside the organization. Since threats evolve constantly, the framework must evolve too. Based on a literature search of both PubMed and the web (via Google) with key phrases and child terms (for PubMed), the risks and consequences of data breaches in individual processes in clinical photography are identified. Current clinical-photography practices are described. Lastly, we evaluate current risk mitigation strategies for clinical photography by examining guidelines from professional organizations, governmental agencies, and non-healthcare industries. Combining lessons learned from the steps above into a comprehensive framework that could contribute to national/international guidelines on safe clinical photography, we provide recommendations for best practice guidelines. It is imperative that best practice guidelines for the simple, safe, and secure capture, transfer, storage, and retrieval of clinical photographs be co-developed through cooperative efforts between providers, hospital administrators, clinical informaticians, IT governance structures, and national professional organizations. This would significantly safeguard patient data security and provide the privacy that patients deserve and expect.


Data encryption / Electronic health records / Patient safety / Patient protection / Photography
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