Is My Patient Recording This?

In this digital age, it seems that everything is being recorded. Audio and video recording of ballgames, meetings and birthday parties with a cell phone is the norm. However, what about a patient’s office visit or a surgical procedure when the patient is under anesthesia? Can a patient in Indiana record these encounters? Should physicians and other health care providers be concerned?

Indiana and federal laws are consistent on this subject. A telephone call, meeting or discussion with another person can be recorded if one party consents. In other words, if the person making the recording is aware that the discussion is being recorded and consents, the communication can be recorded under the law.

Do patients really do this? For a variety of reasons, not necessarily sinister or sneaky, a patient may want to record an office visit conversation or procedure. The patient may have a poor memory or may not understand medical terms and might want to refer to the physician’s instructions later or discuss them with a friend or family member. The patient may have hearing issues which prevent adequate communication. On the other hand, some patients may want to record these events in case complications occur, out of suspicion or in anticipation of possible litigation.

Two tips are suggested for physicians and other health care providers.

First, assume that everything you do and say is being recorded. Do not put yourself in the same position as the physician in another state who reportedly made offensive comments about his patient while the patient was under anesthesia. Unbeknownst to the physician, the patient’s cell phone recorded the entire event. Not surprisingly, the patient promptly filed suit. Whether or not recordings are ultimately admissible at trial is a separate issue, but it is best to never get to that point.

Second, have a policy in place to address this issue. Some patients may actually ask whether it is acceptable to record an encounter with the physician. A consistent and thoughtful policy can avoid hasty responses that may compromise the valued relationship between the patient and the health care provider.

For more information about this or any related topic, please contact KDDK at (812) 423-3183.

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