Smartphones have begun to play a large part in every aspect of our lives. These days, it is rare to come across a person who is not carrying their phone on them. There are many times when I will be in an exam room talking to a patient while their friend or family member is sitting in the corner of the room looking at their smartphone. 

I tend not to think much of it, but recently I’ve had multiple instances where I’ve completed a procedure and heard the person in the corner say something along the lines of “Woo! Your facial expressions were priceless! Good thing I recorded a video of the whole thing!” I have a major issue with people saying this, because it means one thing – they’ve recorded me and I wasn’t aware of it.

For the most part, I’m sure the videos won’t travel past the realm of your patient’s friends. However, all it takes is one person to post a video on social media and the next thing you know, you’re a viral sensation and have no clue.

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Personally, I feel that recording someone without their knowledge is a great invasion of privacy. In fact, the state of Pennsylvania (where I live), has a wiretapping law that makes it illegal to record someone unless they agree to it. This now includes recording people with smartphone apps as well. In addition, the hospital where I work has a policy of their own, which bans video recording in the emergency department.

If people ask me if they can take a video, I tell them upfront that it is against hospital policy to record a video in the emergency department. I don’t let them record video because I don’t want to go against hospital policy. On the other hand, I have no problems with people who take pictures of their wounds or X-rays, because I would also want to take before and after photos of my lacerations or fractures.

When I find out that someone has recorded me without my knowledge, I try to approach it gracefully. I politely inform them that it is against hospital policy to record videos and I ask that the video go no further than the emergency department. If they want to show their friend what they looked like during the procedure, then so be it. I always make sure to mention that I don’t want anyone to get in trouble for going against policy. Patients and their friends and family are usually receptive to this idea.

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I think the best solution to the problem of recording in the emergency department is to try to head it off before it happens. I have started paying more attention to the people in the corner of the exam room to make sure they are not filming anything. If they are, I inform them of the policy and don’t continue with the exam until they stop. While I know it is impossible to catch everyone who is filming, I hope this cuts it down to some extent. This way, when I become a viral sensation, I can make sure it is because of something done on my own terms!

Jillian Knowles, MMS, PA-C is an emergency medicine physician assistant in the Philadelphia area.  


  1. Pa. Wiretap Laws Forbid Use of Smart Phone Apps to Record Conversations. Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog. Published March 3, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2017.

This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor