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Be careful what you say and how you say it when talking to patients; they may be recording you

Today, Smartphones are so common that it's not unusual to see a patient using his/her phone during a doctor's office visit. But with smartphones a patient can also make voice recordings of that doctor visit. It's easy to do, and you may not even know you are being recorded. The technology is not going away. So, how should you deal with it?

Today, Smartphones are so common that it’s not unusual to see a patient using his/her phone during a doctor’s office visit. But with smartphones a patient can also make voice recordings of that doctor visit. It’s easy to do, and you may not even know you are being recorded. The technology is not going away. So, how should you deal with it?

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the issue of “Ethical Implications of Patients and Families Secretly Recording Conversations With Physicians.”  As it becomes easier for a patient to record his/her office visits, we are seeing the question of the liability risks of it from insureds from two aspects: recording the office visit without the provider’s knowledge and requesting permission to record the visit.

First, it’s important to understand that recorded patient encounters may be happening without your knowledge.  Federal law only requires that one person be aware of the taping. And very few state laws require both parties to acknowledge the recording. Whether a hidden recording is admissible in court depends.

Recorded openly or covertly, the JAMA article explains that recordings may provide some benefits to patients and their families because they can go back and listen to important information and instructions that they may not have caught during the in-person conversation.  However, the not-knowing nature of secret recordings may undermine the patient-physician relationship if the deception is discovered.

Having a policy regarding your position on recording the office visit, and sharing it, is the best defense. Post your policy in your reception area and include it on your patient intake forms.

If a patient asks to record his/her visit, ask who is requesting (patient, family member, etc.) and what part of the visit he/she wants to record. If the individual requesting is not the patient, get the patient’s consent and document everything in the patient’s medical record. Remind the patient, he/she can take notes, the information will be documented in his/her medical record, and you can provide him/her with documentation from the visit to take with them.

Since there is no way to know if a patient is recording your conversation or not, you should proceed as if all conversations are being recorded. Keep this in mind when meeting with your patients to encourage open communication and trust between one another.

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