Your Office Is Being Recorded

Mark Crane, BA


April 03, 2018

In This Article

Using New Technology Is a Challenge

As more patients bring in recording devices, that raises questions doctors hadn't thought about before. "The question isn't whether recording increases your liability risk, but how can we use new technology in a constructive way. It stems from a desire to know more," said Gerald B. Hickson, MD, senior vice president for quality, safety and risk prevention at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I encourage doctors not to just give it a blanket 'no,' but to understand what the patient is seeking. It's not the device that will get you sued. Some patients need to hear your advice a few times to really get the message," he said. "When I was doing a lot of pediatric primary care, I had a patient whose father was a prominent plaintiff's attorney. He or his wife would come in, pull out a recording device, and ask for permission to record the visit. The first time I saw it, I hesitated. Then I thought, 'What the heck, I'm not going to do anything different anyway.' And I accepted it."

Hickson believes that recordings can lead to better compliance, but he does worry about patients or families who secretly record meetings. That can disrupt the trust relationship. "You have to wonder why the patient would choose to hide the device," he said.

Physicians may worry that if they omit a sentence that's later deemed important, it can return to haunt them. "Most doctors generally give the same advice most of the time. We're not perfect. Courts understand that they look at the general care that's delivered rather than quibbling about a missing word or two. And I always remind patients to call me with any questions. It's our intent and availability that's most important to protect us from lawsuits."


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