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When it is a good idea to record your doctor office visit

Posted Thursday, July 27, 2017 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

From time to time I either represent clients or speak on the phone with potential clients who tell me that they have recorded their doctor visit.

Sometimes the patient is open and honest with their doctor about the recording, and the doctor consents to the recording. As many of us can understand, it can be difficult to remember everything a doctor tells us in a visit, particularly if we are facing a serious illness that may have an emotional component to it. In such circumstances, a recording is a great way to be an active listener in the visit, knowing that you don’t need to furiously write notes of what is being said.

Other times, the intent of the patient is a little less benign; he or she does not get permission from the doctor, and secretly records the conversation. Unfortunately, often the motive behind this can be traced back to a feeling of lack of trust between patient and doctor.

Apparently these are not isolated, uncommon situations. A recent JAMA article summarized research that indicates that as many as 1 in 10 patients record their visits.

In 39 states and the District of Columbia, this covert recording may not improve the relationship between patient and doctor, but it is not illegal. These states are one-party consent states, meaning the patient can record the conversation with his or her doctor without the doctor’s consent.

However, Washington and 10 other states follow the two party consent rule – you need permission from the doctor before recording the visit. See RCW 9.73.030. Essentially what this means is, in situations that are “private”, such as a doctor’s exam room with the door closed, you need to get consent from the doctor or you are breaking the law.

So, in Washington, if you are thinking about recording your next doctor’s visit, ask for permission!

You can read the JAMA article here:

Can Patients Make Recordings of Medical Encounters? What Does the Law Say?

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