UK doctors share the results of medical examinations via social networks and messengers: is it a good trend or bad?


Sociological researches show that the majority of doctors in UK consider it normal to transfer for example, X-rays shoots and other personal medical data research through online social resources of general use: WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook etc.

Lets see, this trend makes sense or rather carries a danger? At first glance, everything looks logical and natural. Social networks have had a tremendous impact on people`s lives in recent years and even more than 1 billion users use some popular ones already. And if all or nearly all people use a communication tool or other thing in everyday life, they will seek and find ways to adapt it to all aspects of activities, especially their work.

Indeed, the use of ultra-popular WhatsApp and Snapchat looks painfully logical. The doctor sends an X-ray to the patient, supporting the results of the research. The patient does not need to go to the hospital to get data and know what he needs to do next. Now he has all the necessary data to continue the treatment is right, in his phone. This is an especially convenient procedure for a man with a broken leg, isn’t it?

On an even larger scale (and even less obvious), this also applies to sending scans of research between doctors. The technological revolution decisively destroyed (or made reserve) the cumbersome concept of paper data storage, which occupies whole rooms in hospitals.

It seems we see another brick in the foundation of practicality and resources economy which are typical trends of our times. That is, such trends should exist and develop? Not so simple.]

First of all, all the social networks are vulnerable. Observations of hacking activity have shown that it is quite easy to access data here. Even completely anonymous in its concept Snapchat does not remove the self-destructing content completely, leaving “secret” photos programmatically on its servers in a mode hidden from all.
But even simple parental control app allow you to extract the necessary information from there. Only such programs are easy to use and widely distributed. Using them, you can access to the full mailing of everyone you like. Perhaps, the attacker will need to join the information field of a living goal. But today it is quite easy to do this when people have endless lists of “friends”. “Who is 50% of them at all?”

On the one hand, it is incorrect to blame doctors for sending scans in social networks. They make their lives easier, and their work is more productive. In fact, the probability that the personal data of some patient will be needed by someone is extremely low. If the patient`s importance is indicated in advance or if there is a danger of leakage, the questions can be solved initially privately. (This most will do in some cases outlined by importance, in the old fashioned way, “face to face”.)

But the fact remains that using social networks and messengers in the work of medical sphere workers though minimally, but makes the real threat to user’s personal data. What is the solution to the problem? No matter how anxious it may sound, it is better to postpone the use of social networks until better times, so as not to violate the Hippocratic Oath.

Today’s used alternative solution for medical correspondence is a special medical data exchange systems, which often run individually for institutions. But they are also vulnerable in networks connected with the Internet. Attackers can use tools to get influence on users of these networks (doctors) to invoke destructive actions from them invisibly and stole the private data.
In this case, there are two important actions for introduction in medical institutions:

  • Hygiene of users (technological education);
  • Improvement of internal security systems technically.

However, the audit of a number of hospital systems shows that there are not so many vulnerabilities and access points in them. And this means that the problem is not absolute. But it is necessary to continue work with it, because the attackers do not doze off and become more dangerous day by day. Someday doctors will have a 100% safe information field.