Can patients record doctor's visits? What does the law say?

July 10, 2017
In a recent JAMA paper, Dartmouth Institute Assistant Professor Paul Barr and colleagues examined the laws surrounding patient recordings of clinical encounters. Credit: The Dartmouth Institute

Traffic stops, office conversations, and even doctor's visits—more and more people today are choosing to record life's encounters. If you are doctor, there is a good chance that at least one of your last 10 patients recorded their visit—either with or without permission. This "new reality" has some doctors and health care clinics worried about the ownership of recordings and their potential to be used in complaints or even law suits. Patients also worry that recording a doctor's visit might be illegal, especially if done covertly.

What exactly are the laws governing patient recordings? In an article recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), investigators on The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice's Open Recordings Project explain the often-confusing laws around recordings clinical visits.

"In the U.S., the situation is complex," said Dartmouth Institute Professor Glyn Elwyn, MD. "Wiretapping or eavesdropping statutes provide the primary legal framework guiding recording practices and protecting privacy, so a patient who would like to record a doctor's visit should familiarize themselves with laws in their state."

The primary distinction between state wiretapping laws is whether all parties must consent to the recording or just one party. In 'all-party' jurisdictions, covert recordings, on the part of doctors or patients, are illegal as everyone being recorded must consent. In 'one-party' jurisdictions, the consent of any one party in the conversation is sufficient, so a patient can record a clinical encounter without the doctor or provider's consent. *Currently 39 of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., conform to the 'one-party' consent rule, while the remaining 11 are 'all-party' states.

While many doctors— and health care organizations are concerned about how recordings could be shared or used as part of a complaint, Elwyn and co-authors note liability insurers often feel differently. At the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona—one of the few health care organizations in the country to offer patients recordings of office visits—doctors who take part receive a 10 percent reduction in the cost of their medical defense, and $1 million extra liability coverage.

The authors also noted that while patients theoretically are free to share consensual recordings on social media, there's little evidence they're doing so. "Most people are sharing their recordings with a family member or caregiver, or they are listening to recording themselves, so they can better recall the information they received during the encounter," Elwyn said.

In fact, in a review of 33 studies of patient use of audio-recorded clinical visits, the Open Recordings researchers found that 71 percent of patients listened to their recordings, while 68 percent shared them with a caregiver. The studies also reported greater understanding and satisfaction in patients who receive recordings.

With more and more seeking to record their clinical visits, Elwyn and Open Recordings researchers, say that now is the time for and care organizations to embrace the value of recording.

"Health care overall is moving toward greater transparency and patient recordings are going to become more common," Elwyn said. "That means there would be tremendous benefit to patient advocacy groups, , providers and policymakers working together to develop clear guidelines and policies around the responsible, positive use of open recordings."

Explore further: Many doctors silent on cost of cancer care

More information: Journal of the American Medical Association (2017). DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.7511 , http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2643728

Related Stories

Many doctors silent on cost of cancer care

June 22, 2017
(HealthDay)—Cancer doctors are often mute when a patient asks about the cost of treatment, a new study shows.

Guidance materials issued for using medical recordings

December 6, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- New advice and guidance on making and using clinical healthcare recordings for learning and teaching will be launched today. Clinical images, videos and other recordings are vital to good teaching ...

Breast implants may impede ECG and lead to false heart attack diagnosis

June 21, 2017
Breast implants may impede an electrocardiogram (ECG) and could result in a false heart attack diagnosis, according to research presented today at EHRA EUROPACE - CARDIOSTIM 2017.

Report urges pediatric practices to consider consent by proxy

January 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Issues relating to consent by proxy for non-urgent pediatric care should be considered, according to a report published online Jan. 23 in Pediatrics.

Patients who choose doctors with low office visit prices save hundreds of dollars per year

December 5, 2016
Patients who choose primary care doctors with low office visit prices can rack up considerable savings on overall health care costs, according to new research from Harvard Medical School.

Judge to hear arguments over anti-abortion group recordings

December 18, 2015
A federal judge is set to hear arguments Friday over whether to continue blocking an anti-abortion group from releasing recordings that it secretly gathered at annual meetings of the National Abortion Federation, an abortion ...

Recommended for you

One in 4 women and 1 in 6 men aged 65+ will be physically disabled in Europe by 2047

October 23, 2017
By 2047 one in four women and one in six men aged 65 and above is expected to be living with a physical disability that will severely restrict everyday activities, reveals an analysis published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Protein regulates vitamin A metabolic pathways, prevents inflammation

October 23, 2017
A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have discovered how uncontrolled vitamin A metabolism in the gut can cause harmful inflammation. The discovery links diet to inflammatory diseases, ...

New insights into controversial diagnosis of adolescent chronic fatigue

October 23, 2017
Crucial new research could provide some clarity around the controversy surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in adolescents. The research by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute published ...

Do boys really have a testosterone spurt at age four?

October 23, 2017
The idea that four-year-old boys have a spurt of testosterone is often used to explain challenging behaviour at this age.

Our laws don't do enough to protect our health data

October 23, 2017
Have you ever wondered why your computer often shows you ads that seem tailor-made for your interests? The answer is big data. By combing through extremely large datasets, analysts can reveal patterns in your behavior.

New prevention exercise programme to reduce rugby injuries

October 23, 2017
A new dynamic 20-minute exercise programme, performed by rugby players before training and pre-match, could dramatically reduce injuries in the sport according to a benchmark study published today (Sunday 22 October).

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.