Recording in Practice – Telephone Conversations and Patients Recording in Practice

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Recording Telephone Conversations

Patients Recording in the Practice

Medical Records

Recording Telephone Convesations

The principles to consider if you are thinking of recording telephone calls within your practice:

  • You must not single out conversations with individual callers – i.e. you can’t just record conversations with “difficult” patients, if you are going to record then this must be done as a matter of routine
  • You must ensure that all callers know they are being recorded – this would normally be in the form of a message for all callers to the practice, information in the practice leaflet, and a poster in the waiting room

The GMC has produced guidance on this matter: Making and using visual and audio recordings of patients– guidance for doctors, May 2002.

Recordings of telephone conversations fall into a category of their own. Anyone using a telephone is subject to licence conditions under the Telecommunications Act 1984. They require you to make every reasonable effort to inform callers that their call may be recorded, and maintain a record of the means by which callers have been informed.  Given the sensitive nature of calls to medical advice lines or similar services, you should pay particular attention to ensuring that callers are aware that their call may be recorded. You must not make intentionally secret recordings of calls from particular patients.

GPs who decide to record conversations should also bear in mind that they may be expected to disclose recordings in the event of a complaint or claim. The guidance clarifies that recordings made for clinical purposes form part of the clinical record, and should be retained for the necessary period and not disclosed without specific consent.

When making video or tape recordings of patients e.g. for training, research or audit purposes, GPs are advised to:

  • Ensure patients understand the purpose of the recording, who will see it, the circumstances in which it will be shown and for how long it will be kept
  • Ask patients if they want to withdraw or vary permission after the recording
  • Give patients the option to see/hear the recording before it is used
  • Guard against improper disclosure of recordings, as if they were medical records
  • Make a note of all this in the medical records.

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Patients Recording in the Practice

We are often asked for guidance from practices when patients record consultations.  The advice of the medical defence organisations is that you cannot insist that a patient does not record a consultation and that, conversely, it may help the patient remember key information about the interaction, which they may otherwise forget.  The GMC also sets out that it expects ‘you to give patients the information they want or need in a way they can understand.  You should make sure that arrangements are made, wherever possible, to meet patients’ language and communication needs’.

Patients do not need to secure consent to record in the practice because they are processing their own personal information and so are exempt from data protection principles. Moreover, your duty of care means that you should not refuse to treat the patient.  It may be more constructive to ask them to record openly and share a copy of any recording with the practice, so that it can be added to the patient’s medical record.

It is important to be aware that any such recording may be used as evidence in a GMC or court hearing.

Following a query from a practice regarding a patient who was filming in the practice reception area, where staff and other patients were present, we sought the advice of the Information Commissioner’s Office.  The response was ‘data protection laws don’t cover situations when individuals process personal information for domestic purposes.  However, you can have a policy in place eg that you don’t allow filming in such areas. If someone does film these areas then that would be a breach of your policy, not data protection.’  We would suggest you raise awareness of any such policy via your website and a notice in the waiting area.

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Medical Records

Please click here to access our guidance on Medical Records

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