What Should You Do If A Patient Wants To Record A Consultation?

patients recording a medical consultation

Patients are now equipted with the technology to record their consultation, whether you know it or not.

With the proliferation of smartphones, many patients now have the ability to record a consultation at their fingertips by installing a simple, and free, app. Recording a consultation has some advantages for doctors and patients. It can help the patient to retain information for example, but when a patient covertly records a consultation, it can cause the doctor to question why.  

One study suggested that patients immediately forget between 40 and 80% of the medical information provided by their doctor and almost half the information they do recall is incorrect.  

Some patients come in with notepads, ready to write down everything they hear. The problem is that when patients are busy writing things down, they may not be completely focused on everything that’s being said. Bottom line, they still don’t get all the info they wanted.

Physicians are split on the subject.

Christopher Eden, consultant urologist at the Royal Surrey Count Hospital, Guildford, explains why he approves. 

The other day, a chap came to see me to discuss his surgical options following a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer. I fully expected he’d have a lot of questions, but the first one lobbed my way wasn’t quite what I’d anticipated.

Clearing his throat, he said: ‘Do you mind if I film you, doctor?

It’s not the first time a patient has asked if they could tape our consultation. But usually they mean an audio recording. Appearing on the small screen - or at the very least his smartphone - was altogether different.

But I didn’t have any objection. Research has shown that patients pick up only a third of what a doctor tells them.

The other side of the coin.

A U.S. cancer specialist recently wrote in a leading journal that he felt taping a consultation disrupted the lines of communication and trust between doctor and patient - particularly if it’s done surreptitiously.

Why, he asked, was there a need to record the conversation at all?

Obviously, I’d prefer to be told if it’s going to happen: if a patient trusts me to save his life, he should feel comfortable enough to tell me he wants to tape our discussion.

So what should you do if a patient asks to record a consultation with you? It is common courtesy that somebody wishing to make a recording should ask permission. If you feel uncomfortable at the prospect then you should express that discomfort and tell the patient that they would prefer the consultation not to be recorded.

If the consultation is recorded, it would be sensible to ask for a copy so that it can be placed in the patient’s notes to form a permanent record.

The content of the recording is confidential to the patient, not the doctor... so the patient can do what they wish with it. This could include disclosing it to third parties, or even mounting the recording on the internet. So what does this mean for doctors?

Doctors should always behave in a responsible and professional manner in consultations. Consequently, any recording will provide concrete evidence of that.

Technological advances will undoubtedly bring further changes and it may well be that in 20 years’ time, recording of consultations, with copies being held by both doctor and patient, will be commonplace.

Does anyone here have experience with this?