Your Office Is Being Recorded

Mark Crane, BA

Disclosures

April 03, 2018

In This Article

More Patients Are Recording Visits

Like it or not, more and more patients are asking for permission to record office and clinic visits on their smart phones.

That's if you're lucky. It's quite possible that at least one of your last 10 patients recorded their visit, with or without permission, according to research from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.[1] As many as 26% of patients admit to covertly recording their doctors, according to a recent survey.[2]

In all but 11 states, surreptitiously recording a conversation without permission is perfectly legal.

Why the increase in the frequency of recording? The use of smartphones has exploded, and recording is simple: Just push a button. It's been said that often doctors speak fast but patients listen slow, often failing to comprehend and retain important information. Patients can't always remember all the crucial instructions being conveyed to them. They believe that recording will help them comply with instructions and understand their conditions. They can play the recording for family members, who can help them carry out the doctor's plans.

Physicians naturally worry that recordings can disrupt the trust with their patients. Will patients be honest about their actions, such as sex and drug use, if the conversation is recorded? Doctors worry that the recordings could be used against them in malpractice suits, or can be made public on social media. Physicians might inadvertently say something that could be embarrassing if edited out of context and made public.

Legal Dangers of Recording

There aren't many lawsuits involving recording of these conversations but they do occasionally occur. One notorious case happened a few years ago in northern Virginia.

The patient, identified in court papers only as D.B., was about to undergo colonoscopy. He testified that he pressed the record button on his smartphone so that he could save the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure. As soon as he was under anesthesia, the medical team made various comments disparaging him. The doctors talked about avoiding the man after the procedure, instructing an assistant to lie to him and placing a false diagnosis on his chart.

"After 5 minutes of talking to you in pre-op," the anesthesiologist told the sedated patient, "I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit," she was recorded saying.[3]

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