Medical Photography, taking the right pictures for your GP

The recent need for social distancing has had an impact on many of the services we took for granted just a few short months ago. A lot of things might look and feel unfamiliar and coming to terms with doing them a little differently has become an important part of our lives.

For many doctors that has meant a change to the way they ‘see’ their patients. For patients themselves, a routine appointment is now just as likely to be undertaken remotely as opposed to visiting a local surgery.

These remote appointments may be held via a telephone conversation or video chat. For many with concerns about self-isolating or social distancing measures it might be seen as a welcome move at a time when they really rely on accessing such services.

If however the appointment needs to involve more than a conversation then we might be asked to provide a photograph or photographs to give our doctors all the information they need when a visual examination of a patient isn’t possible.

Photography to help diagnosis

Images can give our GP’s a much clearer idea of what is going on physically and gain a better understanding of the nature or severity of an issue. However simple this kind of medical photography it might seem, it can be something patients might often have problems with.

Medical images can have other benefits if for example a certain condition or behaviour comes and goes intermittently then may prove difficult to observe and diagnose. By providing an image to our doctor we can show them the problem, even if it only occurs at certain times of the day or after certain activities.

It is important to understand that we don’t have to be professional photographers to take the kind of images a doctor may need. Many modern smart phones are designed to do automatically most of the things that a conventional camera might need in-depth user knowledge to achieve.

If a patient is asked to provide images as part of a consultation with a GP or health professional, there are one or two things to bear in mind.

Tips for taking the most useful images

Nearly all smart phones will focus on close-up images and give good colour representation automatically. It is important however to ensure that any filters are turned off and we use normal levels of natural light, against a plain background whenever possible, such as a plain sheet or light coloured wall.

Additionally, it might not always be obvious, particularly in close-up images, whereabouts on our bodies the picture is taken. Ensuring that information is available to your GP is a good idea.

Scale is another common issue with images; it can sometimes be difficult to know for example the size of a lesion, or an area affected by a rash. Scale can also play an important role if taking a series of images over time to show a doctor how a condition may be developing or progressing. Giving some thought to the orientation of an image is also a good idea, to make it clear which directions are up, down etc.

It might also be a good idea to note the times and dates of the images taken, particularly if asked to take a series of photos. These will go on to form a part of our medical file so including a brief note with these details can be good for peace of mind.

Finally and perhaps importantly is the concern of many regarding the confidential and often very private nature of the images we might be asked to send to our doctor. It feels very familiar to so many of us to take and share conventional images of ourselves with family and friends on social media.

It is really important to remember that medical photography is treated completely differently.

Any images that you take and send to your doctor are treated with exactly the same levels of confidentiality as every other type of medical record. They are viewed only by medical professionals and stored securely and confidentially. They can form a vital part of diagnoses and treatment when appointments are held remotely.

Getting them right can save time and lead to quick, effective care, advice and treatment.