The release and transfer of digital radiographic images

Originally published in March 2015

When a patient changes dentists, or when a dentist refers a patient to another dentist, copies of patient records are usually requested to facilitate the transfer of the patient’s care.

Dentists who use digital radiography must ensure that the radiographic images provided are of diagnostic quality when viewed on a screen and when reproduced or printed in hard copy. This will help to reduce the patient’s exposure to ionizing radiation by minimizing the need for additional images and unnecessary retakes.

Dentists must also ensure that the patient’s personal health information associated with digital radiographic images and file information is protected in compliance with the requirements of the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004 and the directives of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

It is usually preferable to provide digital radiographic images in an electronic format. Traditional filmbased radiographs can also be scanned, digitized and provided in an electronic format. The dentist providing the information should ensure that the selected format is compatible with the receiving dentist’s electronic records management system, so that the files can be opened and viewed.

If digital radiographic images are forwarded by e-mail, a secure e-mail service must be employed with strong encryption. Dentists who are members of the Ontario Dental Association can use the Canadian Dental Association’s eReferral Service through which personal health information can be shared securely. Both the dentist providing the information and the dentist receiving it must be registered users to access this service.

Alternatively, digital radiographic images can be copied to portable media or storage devices, such as a CD-ROM or USB flash drive, and provided to the patient. With the patient’s consent, these can be forwarded to another dentist by registered mail or courier.

If hard copies are provided, the digital radiographic images must be printed on photographic quality paper using a printer that is capable of producing high resolution photographic quality prints.

Further information can be found in the Practice Advisory on the Release and Transfer of Patient Records and the Guidelines for Electronic Records Management.