Confidential patient data


Sir, – The security of confidential patient data is not a trivial matter (“Doctors may be sharing patient data”, October 30th). Patients disclose intimate confidential information only if they can be assured that it will be stored and communicated securely and safely.

Images of X-rays, scans, etc, taken via the mobile device can be streamed via the notoriously leaky Apple iCloud and suggested for potential upload to other social media. Material shared via WhatsApp is downloaded by default to the image gallery on a smartphone and streamed between all networked devices, whether the recipients open the message or not. Such images can also contain EXIF data, such as geographical co-ordinates, data and time. There are also the dangers of lost phones and the importance of cleaning devices before they are upgraded or discarded.

New general data protection regulations (GDPR) come into effect in May 2018, outlining specific requirements for the communication and storage of data of which patient data is arguably the most sensitive. Breaches are expected to generate fines of up to 4 per cent of annual turnover or €20 million euro; for authorities such as the HSE this could be catastrophic.

The speed of sharing images is indeed essential; however, there is a range of technical solutions for the appropriate secure communication of patient data – the Hospify app being one example.

It is essential that clinicians are provided with approved technical solutions and training by the health service urgently, if they are to adhere to the new regulations and a data protection disaster averted. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.