The Impact of Patients Recording Their Doctors Visits

Martine Ehrenclou has a great article titled Patients Secretly Record Visits with Their Doctors that is worthy of further discussion. Here’s an excerpt from the article to get the discussion started:

Since I suspected this office visit might contain some complicated and possibly stressful information, I considered recording what the surgeon said by using an app on my iPhone. I envisioned asking the doctor’s permission to record the conversation and decided against it because he might not have responded well to that idea. Some physicians and other providers react with suspicion and a defensive medicine posture when asked by patients to record what they’ve said.

My husband’s surgeon had a reputation for highly successful surgeries but not the greatest bedside manner. He’d always been pleasant with us, but since my husband’s recovery had been compromised with episodes of pain, I decided that an audio device could have instigated alarm. That would have interfered with the doctor’s focus on Jamie. With only 7-10 minutes, we had to make the most of this office visit. I wanted my husband out of pain.

In place of an audio recording, I took notes instead.

I’m sure that many patients have gone through the same situation. They want to have the valuable information that the doctor has shared, but they’re afraid of the impression they’ll give the doctor if they tell them they’re going to record the visit. Unfortunately, that’s the culture of fear that we’ve created in our healthcare system. Doctors are rightly afraid of the medical malpractice implications of anything they do.

The article goes on to talk about some patients who secretly record their visit with their doctor. A commenter and the author both described this trend of patients secretly recording doctors visits as alarming. However, that feels like a bit of a contradiction to me. The article talks about how asking your doctor to record the visit could compromise the patient-doctor relationship. In order to avoid compromising it, recording the conversation privately seems like the natural alternative.

What’s worth noting is that these private recordings might not be admissible in court depending on your state. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not sure of the exact laws, but I know that in many states both patients have to be aware that a recording is being made. This should actually provide much comfort to doctors. If a secret recording isn’t admissible in a medical malpractice case, then the doctor should be glad that the patient is secretly recording the visit. It would illustrate that the patient really just wants to review what the doctor said as opposed to trying to ensnare the doctor in some legal lawsuit. Sounds like deep patient engagement to me.

Since pretty much all of us now have an audio recording device in our pocket (better known as a cell phone), this topic is going to become more and more popular. More and more patients are going to want to record their office visit. No doubt some will do this in full disclosure to the doctor and others will do it privately.

I wonder when we’ll see the first doctors flip the script on the patient and suggest that the patient record the office visit. We probably won’t see this happen for the full visit anytime soon, but you could easily see the doctor recording the plan and instructions part of the visit and sending it to the patient or the doctor encouraging the patient to record it themselves. In fact, I recall Kareo doing something like this for doctors using Google Glass. It’s a happy medium where the doctor is likely more comfortable having what they say recorded. A great part of a patient portal would be a list of all the things a doctor’s instructed the patient as part of a visit.

Of course, all of this leads to my concept of a video EHR that captures the audio and video of every visit. I’ve been talking about it more and more lately. I’ll have to do a full post on my vision for a video EHR in a future post. If the idea of a video EHR makes you uncomfortable, that’s no surprise. However, it’s not as far fetched as you might think.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Recording patient visits, whether surreptitious or not raises many issues. For example, there’s something of a Heisenberg effect, that is, recording may alter behavior. When one or both persons knows they’re “on,” this can change their behavior and attitudes.

    Recording medical visits fits comfortably in our environment. We expect police officers to record their patrols, toll plazas to capture our license plates, businesses to film our comings and goings. When was the last time someone didn’t record a public meeting, trial or hearing? It’s not startling that these public events morph into our dealings with anyone who provides a personal or professional service.

    In addition to doctors, there will be or already are recordings of lawyers, accountants and psychiatrists. The only one that I think would be exempt might be dentists, maybe.

    What this raises is not just questions of privacy and consent. Are omnipresent recordings only due to the availability of technology? Or are they due to a decline in trust in organizations and degradation in general comity?

  • I suspect that recording interactions between patients/customers and providers will only increase. Here are some good reference materials on the topic:

    Practical Tips for Recording Phone Calls, Conversations, Meetings, and Hearings

    State Law: Recording

    “Patients Will Record Encounters, and Docs Must Adjust: It’s time to reconsider fear of recording devices”

  • Very good questions and resources. Thanks for sharing. I think that recording will become an expectation and many will be dragged kicking and screaming.

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