Smartphone recording: Allowed or not, your office needs a clear-cut policy

Whether you are for or against allowing patients to record their office visits using their smartphones, it's critical that your office develop a policy on the issue--and create a plan for how you'll enforce it.

As lawyer and physician Katalin Eve Roth explained in a recent American Medical News column, there can be practical benefits to allowing patients to audio record their visits. For example, a patient's ability to review a conversation with a doctor may help increase patient understanding, engagement and informed decision-making, as well as free patients up to do more listening than note-taking.

If you choose to allow patients to record visits, however, consider the following precautions:

  • Ask patients to record just the beginning and/or ending discussion that occurs during the visit, but not during the physical exam.
  • Create a policy to limit the distribution of these recordings to protect yourself and the privacy of the patient encounter. For instance, you might want to permit patients to share recordings with caregivers but ask them to agree in writing that they wouldn't use the recording as part of a malpractice lawsuit or post it anywhere online.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of letting patients record visits, consider the following enforcement strategies from David Troxel , chief medical officer of the Doctors Company, in a post on KevinMD.com:

  • Post signs in your reception area and exam rooms informing patients that to all types of recording are prohibited to protect privacy and confidentiality.
  • Create a written policy to distribute to patients.
  • Ask patients to discontinue recording if you witness them doing so--politely.
  • Remind patients and family members that they are free to take notes during your encounter.

 To learn more:
- read the article from American Medical News
- see the post from KevinMD

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