Study author and researcher at RMIT University in Melbourne Kara Burns said the easy availability of camera phones was improving patient care and medical training, but raised serious privacy issues.
"Everybody that you talk to that works in healthcare will have an experience of seeing a doctor pulling out a phone, or even being the patient who is being photographed," said Ms Burns, a medical photographer. "Doctors definitely feel that it is part of good practice to document a patient's condition."
Yet nearly 40 per cent of doctors and nurses surveyed did not always obtain consent for their photos. And "non-compliance with written consent requirements ... was endemic", she wrote in the journal Australian Health Review.
She said the photos were overwhelmingly taken for inclusion in a patient's file, or for medical education, but it was clear there was also immense public interest in medical photographs.
Fairfax Media is not suggesting these images violate patient consent or privacy.
Australian Medical Association head Steve Hambleton said it was taking the issue extremely seriously, with three committees now developing guidelines for doctors.
With the integration of medical tools and smartphones, image capture for healthcare fields will be an important topic.
"These new technologies have been really great for helping patients," he said. "For example, if a patient has a fracture, that can be photographed and transferred to [other doctors] and that makes the job of deciding who comes in and what sort of care is required much more simple."
He said if images were used for teaching or medical case reports, doctors went to great lengths to ensure the patient could not be identified. But doctors needed guidance on how best to protect images they took.
"Does it go straight to the patient's medical file, or does it stay on the phone, and does the phone have the right level of security?" he said. "Doctors need to be aware of the magnitude of the risk".