Issue 50 - Confidentiality and patient photos


A recent disciplinary decision by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in the UK highlights the importance of obtaining consent from clients before you upload any images of their animals to social media.

A commentary on this decision has also been provided in the Vet Record 4 May 2019. Editorial: Social media case has lessons for all vets.

Whilst the legislation in NSW is different and any finding and disciplinary action may also be different this decision is a timely reminder to veterinarians in NSW that they must obtain consent from the client before uploading any images of them or their animals to social media platforms. As always, it is best to obtain written consent but it is acceptable from the Board’s perspective for a contemporaneous note to be added to the medical record regarding discussions with the client when obtaining consent.

The Board re-published an article on confidentiality in the December 2018 issue of Boardtalk.  The purpose of the article was to reinforce obligations under the Veterinary practitioners code of professional conduct (Code) cl 12 which states ‘except as otherwise required by this code of conduct, a veterinary practitioner must maintain the confidentiality of information obtained in the course of professional practice’.

The Board often receives questions about releasing records to other veterinarians, insurance providers, the RSPCA and the police, and these questions were covered in that article.  Patient photos are simply another form of confidential information obtained during the course of your professional practice.