03 February 2016
It is becoming common for patients to ask to record discussions about their dental treatment using a mobile phone. Dental Protection is also aware of cases where the patient has made a covert recording without telling the dentist. In a recent case in the USA, a clinician was sued after a patient’s mobile phone recorded him making unprofessional comments about the patient whilst he was under anaesthesia.
It is common courtesy that somebody wishing to make a recording should ask permission. If you feel uncomfortable at the prospect then you should express that discomfort and tell the patient that you would prefer your conversation not to be recorded.
If you would prefer not to be recorded, but the patient is insistent, it would be inadvisable for you to refuse to proceed with a consultation simply because the patient wishes to record it. A patient may have their own reasons for wishing to record a consultation and it would be worth exploring this further with them. Reasons could relate to the complexity of the consultation, the significance of the diagnosis, the patient’s memory, or the patient’s potential dissatisfaction. A little careful questioning could be helpful in discovering the patient’s thought process. Often patients simply wish to record consultations to ensure that they do not forget important information and/or because they want to share it with a friend or relative. There may be other ways of communicating this information (for example, by writing down the relevant information, or recording a summary of the relevant points at the end).
If your consultation is recorded, it would be sensible to ask for a copy so that it can be placed in the patient’s notes to form a permanent record. Medical records already incorporate a variety of formats, including text messages and emails to and from patients, and recordings could become part of this mix.
Technology makes it increasingly easy for patients to secretly record conversations. Most mobile phones and smartphones have record functions which can easily be activated without the dentist or dental nurse realising. Even hand-held games consoles can record conversations.
A patient does not require your permission to record a consultation. The content of the recording is confidential to the patient, not the dentist so the patient can do what they wish with it. This could include disclosing it to third parties, or even posting the recording on the internet. So what does this mean for dentists?
The content of the recording is confidential to the patient, not the dentist so the patient can do what they wish with it.
Smartphone use in the dental surgery should not affect the way you deliver treatment. Dentists and hygienists should always behave in a responsible and professional manner when working with a patient and consequently, any recording will provide concrete evidence of that. Such a record would inevitably be more complete than a traditional note and Dental Protection’s experience is that detailed record keeping is an invaluable tool in protecting the dental team against unsubstantiated complaints or legal action.
A recording would potentially provide even more detail to demonstrate the professional management of your patients. There should be no reason therefore why you should have anything to fear from such a recording.
Whilst you may understandably feel that being recorded may impair the professional relationship, this may well simply be a matter of adapting to current cultural and societal norms where it is becoming commonplace for the public to record and publish on the internet all sorts of pictures, recordings, etc, relating to their private lives.
Technological advances will undoubtedly bring further changes and it may well be that in 20 years’ time, recording of consultations, with copies being held by both doctor and patient, will be commonplace.