Can I record my doctor’s words during a consultation?

Doctors and other medical providers are alarmed at a growing trend among some of their patients — using smartphones to record diagnoses and complex information about their medical conditions.

For many, if not most, of these patients, there is nothing nefarious afoot, and they are not making these recordings because they are inherently litigious and looking for a doctor with deep pockets to sue.

Getting a serious or terminal medical diagnosis can be earth-shattering to patients. Simply hearing the word “cancer” can set off alarm bells. By recording the doctor’s words, they are able to listen later when emotions have quelled.

Yet many doctors forbid their patients from recording their words, which can erode the trust that needs to be the foundation of the doctor-patient relationship.

A scientist and physician with Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science who has written and published articles for medical journals stated, “Doctors are very angry about this. Their first reaction . . . is to be defensive or worried.”

Some doctors admit to becoming more circumspect and less willing to take any risks when they know or suspect their patients are recording their consultations. They view these recordings as precursors to a lawsuit against them.

But should patients ever covertly record their consultations with doctors? The most important thing to keep in mind is the laws that govern such recordings in the state where they are made. Here in Florida, surreptitious recordings are illegal and would open the door for the patient to face felony wiretapping charges.

There are other concerns as well. If the family of a brain injury patient records the doctor’s advice and prognosis, and that recording later becomes public on social media or via some other transmission, the patient’s privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are compromised.

Even doctors who grant permission for the recordings may later decide, out of an abundance of caution, to stop treating the patient. They may fear malpractice litigation could be the end result and want to limit their risk.

Patients with legal questions about their medical treatment may wish to discuss them with a Florida attorney who handles malpractice cases in order to avoid running afoul of wiretapping laws.

Source: The Washington Post, “Patients press the ‘record’ button, making doctors squirm,” Christie Aschwanden, accessed Sep. 30, 2015