Remember when the passenger on an overbooked United Airlines flight was forcibly removed from the flight and videos of the incident were posted on social media? In this day and age, you can’t be too careful about video and audio recordings and photography, especially at a medical practice or in a health care facility. This Compliance Checkup will cover the issue of a patient (or a person accompanying a patient) who initiates a video or audio recording or photography while at your practice or facility.

Points to Ponder: Check your state laws regarding recordings. Many states, including Ohio, allow a recording of a conversation if one person who is part of the conversation consents to the recording. In practical terms, this means that a person recording a conversation does not need to have the consent of anyone else that is part of the conversation − so a patient can record a physician or other staff member at your practice without their consent. The tricky part about patients recording or taking photographs is that it can be hard to prevent a patient (or persons accompanying the patient) from recording or taking any photographs. If asked by a patient, however, physicians and staff members have the right to say no to a recording or a photograph.

To Prohibit or Permit? Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether to prohibit or permit recordings and photographs. Regardless of the decision you make, it is important to be mindful of how to respond to these types of situations ahead of time. Here are considerations for each side of the coin:

  • Prohibit All Patient Recordings and Photographs

There are advantages to having a bright line approach. In implementing such a policy, I recommend posting a statement about the prohibition in prominent places. Also, you should prepare your staff so that they are able to politely respond as to why recordings and photography are prohibited. Your policy should contain procedures for dealing with a patient or family member that refuses to comply. Some facilities even have patients sign a notice stating that the patient acknowledges that recordings and photography are not permitted.

  • Regulate Patient Recordings/Photographs

With more patients seeking to record visits, now may be the time to embrace the value of recordings and regulate this practice effectively. If you decide to expressly allow patient recordings and photography, create a policy that outlines a procedure for managing this media. Your policy should note the procedure for when a patient, family member, or third party accompanying the patient violates any of the guidelines in your policy. Also, patient recordings should be forbidden when the privacy of other patients may be compromised, and you should also expressly reserve your right to prohibit photography or recording at any time you see necessary. Having clear guidelines and policies in place will help ensure the responsible, positive use of open recordings.

Providers have been increasingly open to patient recordings. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston buys recorders and batteries in bulk, offering them to patients at cancer clinics. As of 2017, 300 new cancer patients a year are using them. At the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, a neurosurgeon records visits, and patients can watch the video later on a web platform.

Consider your stance toward patient recordings and photography now, and be sure to implement a policy that makes sense for your practice or facility.