Medical Industry Debates Whether Patients Should Record Doc Visits

May 13, 2015 in News

Whether patients should be allowed to record physicians during visits has become a highly debated issue in the medical community, the Washington Post reports.


According to the Post, 12 states currently have laws that require patients to obtain permission from physicians before recording audio of them. However, patients in the remaining states are free to record physicians without their consent.

While some providers believe that allowing patients to use their smartphones or another device to record their conversations with physicians could help patients’ understanding of their medical conditions, others have raised concerns about the potential for patients to use such recordings in legal settings.

Arguments for Physician Recordings

Glyn Elwyn — a physician and scientist at the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science who has conducted research on the subject — said that allowing patients to record visits can strengthen the provider-patient relationship and help patients build trust in physicians. Researchers have noted several benefits to allowing patients to record providers, such as being able to:

  • Retain information about their conditions; and
  • Relay information to caregivers.

Arguments Against Physician Recordings

Despite the benefits, Elwyn said, “Doctors are very angry” about patient recordings and “[t]heir first reaction — and it’s ill-considered — is to be defensive or worried that it could be used against them in some way.”

Ali Seifi, a neuro-critical care physician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio who has written about patient-doctor recordings, said that some physicians have admitted to being less frank with patients and more aware of risks if they are being recorded. He said, “Physicians take it as ‘This patient might file a lawsuit later,’ so they try not to be open to any complaints.”

In addition, Seifi said there are HIPAA concerns because it can be difficult to ensure that patients’ medical information remains private once it is recorded. For example, if a family member of a patient in a coma posts a recording of a physician’s discussions on social media, the patient’s privacy could be violated or the physician’s comments could be misrepresented.

Elwyn said, “What’s lacking here is a policy that says we encourage you to record, but please take good care of this record — we don’t want it to appear on the Internet or social media” (Aschwanden, Washington Post, 5/11).

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