Is it illegal to record your doctor visit? Or are their valuable benefits?

More and more people today are choosing to record life's encounters. Why? Because we tend to always have a recording device on us at all times - our mobile phone.

For many clinicians, it is possible that some of their patients are recording their office visit, with or without permission. In a cross-sectional survey administered to the general public in the United Kingdom, 15% indicated that they had secretly recorded a clinic visit, and 11% were aware of someone covertly recording a clinic visit. Every smartphone can record conversations, this may become even more commonplace.

The motivation is reasonable, patients want:

  1. A recording to listen to again
  2. Improve their recall and understanding of medical information
  3. Share the information with family members.

A review identified 33 studies of patient use of audio-recorded clinic-visit information. Audio recordings were highly valued; across the studies, 72% of patients listened to their recordings, 68% shared them with a caregiver, and individuals receiving recordings reported greater understanding and recall of medical information.

Many doctors and health care organizations are concerned about how recordings could be shared or used as part of a complaint. By the way, that's not the goal at harper. At the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the few health care organizations in the country to offer patients recordings of office visits and it seems to be going pretty well. In fact, doctors who take part receive a 10% reduction in the cost of their medical defense, and $1 million extra liability coverage.

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.

This is giving patients more comfort and education. Patients can control their experience with not only physicians but healthcare organizations as a whole. It is a bottoms up approach to drive and improve patient engagement because, really, what matters most is the patient, their families and the information their medical professionals share with them.

"Health care overall is moving toward greater transparency and patient recordings are going to become more common." 

That means there would be tremendous benefit to patient advocacy groups, health care organizations, providers and policymakers working together to develop clear guidelines and policies around the responsible, positive use of open recordings.