Generally, after an examination for a medical problem, a doctor will sit down with a patient and explain what the issue is and offer treatment advice and alternatives. Often, the patient goes home afterward and then and can’t remember exactly what the doctor said. Was it ice, then heat – or heat, then ice? Do you take the new prescription before or after eating? How long should you wait before resuming normal activity? What were the risks and benefits of each treatment option?

What did the Doctor Say?

Anxiety, confusion, or the medical issue itself may affect a person’s ability to remember and understand what transpired during a doctor’s appointment. This is especially true if the medical condition being discussed is complex and/or many treatment options are offered.

Patients may turn to recording their conversations during doctor visits, either to listen to the recording later to clarify what was said or to share with family members who can help them make an informed healthcare decision.

What Does the Law Say About Recording Doctors? Wiretapping Statutes

Researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice’s Open Recordings Project recently published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that discusses the legality of recording medical visits as well as other related issues.

State wiretapping statutes apply when patients’ conversations with physicians are recorded. The key factor in state wiretapping laws involves consent – that is which parties to the conversation need to consent to the recording. In states where all parties need to consent, recordings made without such consent violate the law. In states where only one party needs to consent, a patient can record a conversation with a doctor during an appointment without the doctor’s consent.

Pennsylvania requires the consent of all parties to the conversation before recording. In Pennsylvania, the patient needs the doctor’s consent before recording a conversation taking place during an appointment.

New Jersey requires only the consent of one party to the conversation. In New Jersey, a patient can record conversations during his or her appointment without the doctor’s consent.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act does not apply to recordings made by patients unless they provide that recording to a health care plan or health care practitioner.

Guidelines for Patients Recording Doctor Visits

Because patients are recording their doctor visits more frequently with technology such as smart phones, one of the Open Recordings Project authors, Glyn Elwyn, M.D., stated that it may be time for medical professionals to develop guidelines to protect confidentiality and privacy. Clear guidelines would promote responsible, positive use of open recordings. Guidelines could also address issues such as sharing recordings on social media or with other healthcare providers.