June 17, 2007

Doctors want mobile phone advice

Doctors need to address some potential problems and legal issues related to health care monitored by mobile phones.

For instance, what happens if confidential information sent to a cell phone gets into the wrong hands or if a mobile is lost or stolen? Are doctors legally covered if they make an incorrect diagnosis using a picture taken on a mobile phone? The BBC reports.

"Last week, the government announced 12 million of investment in three schemes to monitor people with long-term conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes in their homes electronically, then transmit the information back to doctors via mobile phone networks.

It is seen as one way of reducing the number of hospital stays for people with chronic problems.

Some hospitals transmit hospital appointment reminders by text message, with a few doctors even using this method to pass test results back to patients.

Dr Pinnock, from Edinburgh, said that while there is great potential for improving the service to patients, doctors need to know that mobile phone communication has the same legal status as older forms of contacting patients.

Professor Lionel Tarassenko, from the University of Oxford, has been involved in projects which use monitoring equipment linked to mobile phones to help asthmatics and diabetics. The patient's practice nurse was given a password to gain access to the confidential information.

He said: "There should be no concerns over security. The mobile phone message has 64-bit encryption, of the same standard used by the MOD - if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for us."

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