You are about to explain some exercises you'd like your patient to do for her injured neck. She holds up her phone and asks if it's OK to record your advice so she can remember it better and so she can share it with her caregiver.
Should you let her?
It’s a question more physicians may be facing soon. Cellphones are ubiquitous and patients are increasingly accustomed to using these tools to document their daily lives. Indeed, one recent UK study showed that 15% of patients are secretly recording doctor visits already.
The study also found that 11% of patients said they knew someone who had done this and 35% said they'd consider secretly recording in the future. Another 34% would record if given permission.
Smartphones are transforming professional conversations, says the study’s author, Glyn Elwyn, MD, a professor at Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and former primary care physician. "Patients are beginning to understand that they have a legitimate right to request a recording."
Elwyn and other researchers at Dartmouth have found that patients want to record visits to help them better remember and understand the information, as well as to share it with caregivers—not for malicious reasons or to support a lawsuit.
Yet, these are common objections to recording that some physicians have, Elwyn says.
"We hear the concerns—'I don't want it used in litigation against me' or 'I'm very wary about the motives of the patient.'"
Another issue is a confusing legal picture with laws that vary by state and haven't kept up with technology, as well as lack of clear guidelines from medical associations, says Elwyn, whose group is working with organizations to try to help them come up with policy.