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Smartphones and Healthcare : What’s the Rule on Recording?

Smartphone usage is not only becoming more common but the variety of medical aid tools available to consumers on their smartphones continues to grow each year. Roughly 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone.

Smartphone applications have been designed to help monitor and track a variety of medical information including the number of steps in a day, blood glucose levels over time, and symptoms and disease trackers. While there are many benefits to an increase in smartphone usage, it can also complicate the delivery of medicine through the audio/visual recording programs available to smartphone users. Many patients are now asking to record office visits with their physicians and many physicians are unsure how to respond. We have put together four important questions physicians may have.

Are there any HIPAA rules in place that limit or allow patients to record visits with their physicians?

While there are strict regulations regarding the recording of patients by staff and physicians, HIPAA laws do not directly address limitations to patient recording their own office visits. Each organization must assess the potential HIPAA implications if they inadvertently record information from another patient. Organizations should implement policies the use of recording, including policies on consent, limitations on recording location, duration, and content.

Must consent be obtained prior to recording?

Most states have a one-party consent law requiring only the recording party to be aware of the taping; meaning, no consent is necessary from the physician being recorded. Eleven states have adopted a two-party recording law; California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. These states require that every party within a conversation consent to being recorded. Organizations need to be aware of the laws that apply to their individual state and develop policies in accordance within legal guidelines.

Are practices allowed to restrict patients from recording visits with their doctors?

Although there are no defined lines, except in states where two-party consent is required, it is advisable that office policies be in place to deal with emerging technology and its potential implications. Healthcare entities can curtail such behavior by having a written policy regarding the use of recording. By doing so, you could have patients read and sign a form acknowledging their understanding of the policy at intake. While determining whether to allow an office visit to be recorded can be a complicated one, there are questions you may want to ask.

-Who is the requesting party? For example, is it a family member, friend, or is it the patient?

-Why are they asking to record the visit?

Your policy might read: due to potential acquisition of other patients protected health information (PHI) please notify us if you intend to record your any part of or your entire office visit.

Are there any potential positive outcomes from these recordings?

Inquiries to record can serve as opportunities to identify patients who may need a little extra attention. Many patients leave the physician’s office either not understanding some of the information given or forgetting it. Recordings can provide a helpful reference resource for the patient at a later time. This may give your practice an opportunity to identify those patients who may need additional help in understanding care plans, diagnoses, and instructions. Additionally, you could remind the patient that they are welcome to take notes if they need to remember important information and that pertinent medical information is recorded within the medical record.

With the exponential growth of personal technology tools, healthcare organizations would do well to be aware of current trends and proactive in addressing the use technology within their facility.  Providers should work with their patients on finding the best possible solution for the patient on a case-by-case basis, especially when there are concerns regarding communication, understanding, and compliance to recommended medical protocol.

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