If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time remembering everything you need when you go to the grocery store. Writing a list beforehand, as I always do, clearly helps, but for some reason, I still manage to forget a few things. Forgetting a needed food item can be frustrating. Forgetting something important that your doctor tells you is not only frustrating, it can negatively impact your health. Taking handwritten notes can help you remember your conversations, but should you record conversations with your doctors? Probably!
Luckily, recording conversations with your doctor is simple with smartphones. More and more patients record appointments, sometimes on the sly.
Can patients trust they have correctly remembered the information heard during medical appointments?
The short answer is a resounding no.
If you’ve been a steady reader of my blogs, you have seen the results of a landmark study which found that 40-80% of what patients hear in the doctor’s office is forgotten almost immediately; and 50% of what is remembered is remembered incorrectly.
Moreover, it’s even tougher to correctly remember information when you hear bad news. Research shows that receiving bad news can make it harder to process information and form memories.
Why record your conversations with your doctors?
Recording your appointments allows you to listen to each conversation as many times as desired, helping you understand and remember any medical information discussed. Several studies found that patients had better recall of information when receiving audio recordings of their visits.
Importantly, your ability to remember and understand health information can impact your health since research shows that without clear information and an understanding of the information’s importance, patients are more likely to:
- Skip needed medical tests.
- End up in the Emergency Department.
- Have difficulty managing chronic illnesses.
Simply put, when you can’t process and remember information, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to make important medical decisions and to follow doctors’ recommendations.
Moreover, research shows that patients highly value having an audio-recording of appointments and the majority of patients benefit from listening to the recordings.
Another benefit? Recording appointments makes it easy to share the conversation with loved ones who could not attend in person.
Does recording appointments improve outcomes?
Although there is no evidence linking recording appointments with better outcomes, it is logical to think it could be possible. Clearly, recording appointments can improve a patient’s ability to remember and understand medical information discussed during an appointment. This, in turn, can improve health literacy – the ability to correctly understand and use medical information. Importantly, high health literacy can make it easier to follow doctors’ recommendations, participate in shared decision making, and follow medication regimens. And health literacy is vital – researchers found that those who high health literacy have improved outcomes.
What about recording procedures?
In addition to recording conversations during appointments, patients have used their smartphones to record procedures, including surgeries and tests.
How common has recording appointments and procedures become?
The ease of recording with smartphones has undeniably increased the number of patients recording their appointments, either with or without their doctor’s knowledge and permission. Research has found that from 15% – 26% of patients admit to secretly recording their doctors. Overall, the number of patients recording their appointments and procedures (both secretly and openly) is unknown.
What do doctors think about all of this?
The opinions on recording appointments are mixed. However, many doctors realize the benefits of patients recording conversations, including improvements in:
- Accuracy of information.
- Patient adherence to treatment and medication regimens.
- Patient engagement.
- Ability to share information with family members or caregivers.
- Ability to better absorb information if the initial conversation is particularly emotional (e.g. cancer diagnosis).
On the other hand, there are doctors who are concerned about this new trend. Doctors worry about the effect on the doctor-patient relationship, including concerns that recording conversations could impact patients’ honesty. Doctors also worry that patients may share portions of recordings out of context on social media, or use the recordings in malpractice cases. One well-publicized case involved a patient who recorded his colonoscopy and heard vicious, unprofessional comments being made by the medical team when he listened to his recording. This recording was successfully used in the lawsuit against the doctors and their practices.
Is recording your doctor legal?
The legality of recording your medical appointments is complex. In the US there are wiretapping and eavesdropping laws that protect people against non-consensual recording of conversations when individuals have a reasonable expectation that the conversation occurring is private. This includes doctors.
Do you need your doctor’s (or other medical professional) permission before you hit “record”?
State laws vary on whether all parties must consent to the recording. In “all-party” or “two-party” jurisdictions, everyone must consent to the recording. However, in “one-party” jurisdictions, one party can record a conversation without the consent of the other people present. In other words, if you live in a “one-party” state, you can legally record your conversation during an appointment without the doctor’s consent.
As of today (October, 2020), there are thirteen “two-party” states that require both parties to agree. Visit this website to learn about recording laws in your state, including any exceptions or special provisions. Additionally, some states have special privacy protections for certain groups, like people with HIV/AIDS.
It’s best to play it safe by confirming the laws in your state before recording. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor before recording him/her, even if you live in a “one-party” jurisdiction.
One last thought.
If you decide to record your appointments, I strongly recommend that you take the time to write down the key points of the conversation in a notebook/journal. This will allow you to easily access the information for your own use in the future. It can also make it easier to share the information with other doctors on your medical team.
To get the most out of any doctor’s appointment, read these blog posts:
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- What is the Best Time of Day for Medical Care?
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- How Can You Get the Best Healthcare? Actively Participate!
- 6 Tips to Better Manage Your Care.
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.
- Why Take Detailed Notes at Doctor Appointments?
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
Note: I updated this post on 10-20-20.