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    Should patients be allowed to record their doctors?

    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?


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    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.


    RELATED READING: Does the rise of digital care spell trouble for primary care practices?


    "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.

    Next: "It's unprecedented and untested"

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    • [email protected]
      I am a primary care physician. What I do for every patient is dictate my note using dragon dictate medical, and then give them a written copy of it when they leave. By the time I'm dictating a note, things are usually more decided, and knowing that the patient will be reading it allows me to structure the note in a way that both teaches the patient and, if read some day in a lawsuit, says what I want it to say. Patient's are very happy with this, and since I asked them to listen for mistakes, it serves as a much better teaching opportunity since there is a very good chance they are listening. If they start playing with their phone while I'm dictating, I gently ask them to listen to make sure what I'm saying about them is accurate. I have had malpractice attorneys tell me that this technique can be extremely helpful, should the patient deny something, such as they were told to return in a month after another blood test. I always include in my note "patient is here for this dictation." I also include the disclaimer: --------- Disclaimer: Portions of this report may have been transcribed using voice recognition software. Every effort was made to ensure accuracy; however, inadvertent computerized transcription errors may be present. --------- I have found the latest version of Dragon to be over 99% accurate, requiring much less training that it has in the past. Although I used an Andrea headset for many years, I now use a Fifine metal condenser recording microphone (669B) from Amazon that works very well, without making me look like a helicopter pilot. This technique both use the patient information that they might not otherwise remember while letting me structure in a well thought out manner.

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