When patients record sessions.
Risk Management

When patients record sessions: What you should know

Smartphones are so common it's normal to see a patient holding their device during an office visit. But with smartphones a patient can also make voice or even video recordings of that doctor visit. It's easy to do, and you may not even know you are being recorded.


A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined the issue of “Ethical Implications of Patients and Families Secretly Recording Conversations with Physicians.” 

Smartphones are so common it’s normal to see a patient holding their device during an office visit. But with smartphones a patient can also make voice or even video recordings of that doctor visit. It’s easy to do, and you may not even know you are being recorded.

As it becomes easier for patients to record office visits, we are seeing questions from insureds about the liability risks from two aspects: recording the office visit without the provider’s knowledge, and requesting permission to record the visit. Since the technology is not going away, it’s good business to understand how you should deal with it.

First, it’s important to understand that recorded patient encounters may be happening without your knowledge. Federal law only requires that one person be aware of the taping, and very few states require both parties to acknowledge the recording. Is a hidden recording is admissible in court? It depends.

The JAMA article explains that recordings, made openly or covertly, may provide some benefits to patients and their families because they can go back and listen to important information and instructions they may not have caught during the in-person conversation. However, the not-knowing nature of undisclosed recording may undermine the patient-physician relationship if discovered.

Having a policy regarding your position on recording the office visit, and sharing it, is the best defense. Post your policy in your reception area and include it on your patient intake forms.

If a patient asks to record his/her visit, ask who is making the request (the patient, a family member, a caregiver, etc.) and what part of the visit they want to record. If the individual requesting is not the patient, get the patient’s consent and document everything in the patient’s medical record. Remind the patient they can take notes, the information will be documented in the medical record, and you can provide them with documentation from the visit to take home.

Since there is no way to know whether a patient is recording your conversation, you should proceed as if all conversations are being recorded. Keep this in mind when meeting with your patients to encourage open communication and trust between one another.


The information in the NCMIC Learning Center is offered solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as, nor does it represent, legal or professional advice. Neither does this information constitute a guideline, practice parameter or standard of care. You should not act or rely upon this information without seeking the advice of an attorney familiar with the specific legal requirements of the state(s) in which you practice. If there is a discrepancy between the site and an insurance policy you have with NCMIC, the policy will prevail.