Lights, Camera, Action!

What will you say when a patient asks, “Do you mind if I record this visit?”

As you know, most of your patients’ phones can video or voice record their visits and procedures with you and your staff. On top of that, your every move can be online within seconds.

In a terrific Medical Economics article this month, a physician describes how a patient wanted his girlfriend to shoot a video of a minor operation. The doctor agreed, relaxed and carefully performed the procedure. He then posed with the smiling patient for a happy ending of the video.

However, another recording was entered as evidence in a malpractice case.

During a colonoscopy an anesthesiologist made some negative remarks about the patient. The patient had turned on his voice recorder and left it in his pants under the operating table. Once he was unconscious, the doctor said to the patient, “After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit.” She added some other comments and cracked some jokes, all on the recording.

She even entered that the patient had hemorrhoids, which he did not (one of her recorded jokes). Listen to clips of the recording.

In June 2015, the Fairfax County Virginia jury awarded the patient $500,000. The recording was key evidence in the trial.

Risks of Patient Recordings

If you make a mistake, especially when recorded, you are at risk both legally and in the PR world. If you also refuse to apologize, or if you upset the patient or the patient’s family, you open the door to a lawsuit.

You may have some protection if you are in the 12 states with a two-party recording-consent law (including California and Florida). In these 12 states, both parties in a recording must consent to the recording. However, do not count on it to protect you.

Rewards of Patient Recordings

Because you are good at your job, recordings can boost your PR and attract new patients. It can make your patient proud for selecting you. It proves you and your staff did everything correctly.

You can also enhance your patients’ experiences. For example, patients who need help remembering your instructions (nearly all) now have a tool to remember what you said, despite their white-coat stress.

Three Recommendations

If you decide it’s okay with you for patients to record your interactions, consider the following:

1. If a patient asks to video or voice record the visit or procedure, do not worry. Say, “That’s fine with me.”

And then be careful and deliberate in all of your actions. Wash your hands. Explain each step before you perform it. Listen to everything your patient says. Answer their questions, and so on.

2. Because all visits include Private Health Information, you or your assistance should warn your patients.

For example, “You know that your friends or family might see your recordings, right?” Or “Some of our patients want their health information to be private, right? Just reminding you for your recording, okay?”

3. For some patients, a recording is an excellent added service, without an extra fee! Examples:

A physical therapist cannot get a patient to correctly do a specific home exercise that would relieve the patient’s pain. So he says, “Joe, how would you like me to video record you doing this exercise on your phone so you can watch at home?” Joe is delighted and hands his phone to the therapist.

“Jill, you can probably save this tooth. You can use your phone to record my instructions, if you’d like.”

“I’m happy your daughter is here to record our visit. If you agree, feel free to have her start recording.”

Mike Chatelain, Managing Partner