Wednesday 21 April 2021

Doctors use WhatsApp to exchange patient information

Laptop, tablet pc and smartphoneDoctors are using free messaging service WhatsApp to exchange patient information, the NRC reports.

Medical staff from various specialisms and different hospitals told the paper they find the app handy and fast, and use it to send photos of disorders to colleagues for help in a diagnosis.

WhatsApp automatically saves photos on a smartphone and these could transfer to other cloud savers, the paper says.

‘We have heard that doctors exchange patient information via WhatsApp,’ Thom Meens of the patients’ association NPCF told the paper. ‘The most important thing for us is that the photos and information cannot be traced back to the individual patient,’ he said.

It is not clear who is responsible for the code of conduct covering doctors’ use of social media, according to the paper. Each hospital has its own code and doctors’ federation KNMG has a strict social media code, although WhatsApp is not explicitely named.


Neurologist Bon Verweij says it is a dilemma. ‘I have saved lives in an emergency by discussing patient information via WhatsApp, but there are certainly privacy concerns.’

He is working on a more secure app for doctors, Esculapp, which will not automatically store photos on a smartphone. However, it will only replace WhatsApp when it is used by all doctors.

WhatsApp is the most popular app in the Netherlands. Nine out of 10 people have installed it on their smartphones, research by Telecompaper showed in May.


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