Smartphones are capturing all of life’s moments, and doctor visits are no exception.
At least 1 in 10 U.S. patients now records discussions at medical appointments, researchers said.
But do they have the right to do so?
The legality of these taped visits depends on where you live, said investigators from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
“In the U.S., the situation is complex,” said professor and senior scientist Dr. Glyn Elwyn.
“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,” Elwyn said.
There are two main differences between state wiretapping laws, Elwyn and his colleagues said in a new report.
In “all-party” states, recordings made by doctors or patients are illegal unless everyone involved is aware and provides consent.
In “one-party” states, just one person involved in a conversation needs to be aware and consent to the recording. Only in these states can patients legally record an office visit without their doctor’s consent and vice versa.
The authors said 39 states and Washington, D.C., follow the one-party consent rule; all others adhere to the all-party requirement.
How are patients using these increasingly common recordings?
After reviewing 33 studies involving audio-recorded clinical visits, the researchers found that about 7 out of 10 patients listened to their own recordings. A similar number shared them with a caregiver.
In many cases, patients used the tapes to remember important details about their office visits.
“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 an institute news release.
Patients said the recordings left them feeling more satisfied with their care.
“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, health care organizations, providers and policymakers working together to develop clear guidelines and policies around the responsible, positive use of open recordings,” he added.
While some doctors and hospitals worry that taped appointments and procedures will be used against them, others take a more positive view. The Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, for example, encourages patient-doctor recordings and rewards doctors who comply, the researchers said.
The report was published July 10 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine provides more information on patients’ rights.