The Medical Protection Society is concerned that doctors are accessing patient information on tablet computers in public places and with insufficient security.
The society says that while using tablet devices might give GPs greater flexibility with accessing information on the go, patient confidentiality must be carefully guarded.
MPS head of medical services, Dr Nick Clements, said: “We welcome anything that makes it easier for busy GPs to support patient care, such as accessing medical records remotely, provided convenience doesn’t compromise confidentiality.
“With the advent of more portable communication devices, such as smartphones and laptops, we’ve already seen a number of MPS members receive patient complaints about confidentiality breaches – for example, a doctor reading a patient’s file on their laptop in a cafe, or a mobile phone with patients’ phone numbers being left on a train.
“The ability for doctors to upload patient notes and add to their record via a tablet device has obvious benefits; however doctors using such tools need to remember that all the normal rules of confidentiality apply.”
The society described some of the risks and situations it has already seen arise when health professionals use digital devices.
These include having insufficient password protection or no encryption and doctors using personal devices for work purposes, which can pose problems if family members also use them in the home.
It said visibility of screens is an issue and clinicians should avoid viewing patient details in public places where other people can see it.
Tablets also tend to be smaller and more compact than laptops and so are easier to lose or leave behind, and are also more likely to be targeted by thieves.
“More and more we see digital devices playing a key role in modern patient care, so with sensible safeguards and a bit of ‘patient confidentiality vigilance’, doctors and patients should be able to both benefit from high tech developments,” concluded Clements.
© 2012 EHealth Media.
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