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Hidden Dangers of Your Smartphone

January 10, 2018

Spoon Feed
This article is a sobering reminder that mistakes with online activity can cost one’s career.  We know the obvious blunders, but this editorial explores 3 more subtle ways our smartphones could damage our reputations.

Why does this matter?
Smartphone use is ubiquitous.  It is an amazingly helpful tool, but inadvertent misuse could divulge private patient information or damage our reputation or that of our employer.  We need to be smart about using our smartphones.

Smartphone = 1   |  Career = 0
A profanity-laden rant on Twitter or open public disclosure of private patient information could obviously get you in trouble.  But here are a few ways the editorialist points out that a smartphone could also land you in hot water.

  1. False sense of security – WhatsApp, in particular, is encrypted at both ends, making it highly secure and hard to intercept.  But this in no way protects one from investigation when police seize a phone.  Some doctors have been implicated in crimes or censured by a medical board because of criminal or vulgar communication or photos on a patient’s or roommate’s seized phone.  And it still should not be used to send patient information, despite its inherent security.
  2. Educational slides – Using patient photos in educational materials without consent is not a good idea.  Also, some don’t realize that the images may have embedded metadata, with the date and location of the photo.  Also doctors have been embarrassed publicly in conferences when trying to control slides from a phone and unsavory images or apps have been inadvertently mirrored on screen.
  3. Cloud risk – Photo storage in a cloud may also endanger patient privacy.  Doctors in the UK with an iPhone are storing their images in the US, for example.

Hidden risks your smartphone poses to your career.  BMJ. 2017 Oct 26;359:j4896. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j4896.

Peer reviewed by Thomas Davis, MD.

What are your thoughts?