Patients' perception of medical photography

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2010 Jun;63(6):e507-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2009.11.005. Epub 2009 Dec 2.


Introduction: With the advent of digital medical photography, a balance between technological possibility and ethical acceptability is necessary. An understanding of patients' perception is vital in maintaining a healthy doctor-patient relationship and the avoidance of unnecessary medico-legal consequences. To explore this, an anonymous patient questionnaire survey was conducted.

Methods: Ethically approved questionnaires were distributed in our plastic surgery clinics. The questionnaires examine patients' acceptability of the use of identifiable and non-identifiable photography for different purposes including teaching, presentation, publication and internet. Patients' preferences on equipment used and who should view their images were also recorded. 205 completed questionnaires were analysed and statistically assessed.

Results: There was a low level of acceptability to the use of personal cameras (16%) and phones (12%) compared to hospital equipment (75% p<0.001). The use of non-identifiable photographs was more acceptable for all purposes (p<0.001). Electronic distribution was less favoured (p<0.001). Patients agreed to have their photographs used by treating doctors (98%), other doctors (74%), for student teaching (82%) or patient education (88%).

Conclusion: Medical photography is acceptable to most patients. Appropriate consent and equipment would maximise patient compliance and clinical benefits. Our discussion with medical professional and defence organisation provide a portrait of current perspectives.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information / psychology*
  • Attitude
  • Audiovisual Aids*
  • Confidentiality / psychology
  • Education, Medical
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / psychology*
  • Internet
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Preference / psychology*
  • Photography*
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / education
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires