Clear guidelines are needed to govern the recording of medical encounters, 3 health policy experts asserted in a recent issue of JAMA. Such guidelines should clarify the legality and use of recordings, and also aim to exploit the potential utility of recordings, they argued. 

“Developing clear policies that facilitate the positive use of digital recordings would be a step forward,” wrote Glyn Elwyn, MD, PhD, professor and senior scientist at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and 2 colleagues from the same institution. 

Being recorded, either with permission or covertly, makes some clinicians anxious, the authors said, but providers should rest assured there are both significant limitations to the liability potential of these recordings and, in contrast, benefits to both patients and clinicians. 

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In an analysis of 33 studies of information derived from audio-recorded clinic visits, most patients said recordings helped them better understand and recall medical information. 

Moreover, recordings can, in fact, reduce liability concerns, the authors explained. 

“For example, at the Barrow Neurological Institute, in Phoenix, Arizona, where patients are routinely offered video recordings of their visits, clinicians who participate in these recordings receive a 10% reduction in the cost of their medical defense and $1 million extra liability coverage,” Dr Elwyn and colleagues noted. 

Nevertheless, anxiety and confusion regarding recordings of medical encounters persist, the authors suggested. 

“The law is inconsistent: recording is allowed in certain situations and is illegal in others,” they said.