I went to a walk-in patient care facility earlier this evening, and asked the provider upon his entrance if I could record the interview. (I realize this feels adversarial, but I had a valid reason.) He replied that no, it was hospital policy that encounters could not recorded, and even after explaining the reason, he refused, so I did not. But I do wonder if this is legal.
When I got home, I looked it up. According to this digital media law site, it is not illegal to record a conversation if you are one of the parties:
Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one of the parties. This is called a "one-party consent" law. Under a one-party consent law, you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party to the conversation.
I also saw that Pennsylvania's wiretapping law is a "two-party consent" law.
I tried to read the wiretapping law but gave up pretty quickly.
So I'm left to wonder.
Is it legal to prohibit recording a conversation in Pennsylvania?
I have never been threatened with a lawsuit, so I'm a bit less leery of patients suing me than some of my colleagues. Granted it doesn't happen often, but I've always given consent when asked if I could be audio recorded (I'm a physician.) My reasoning:
- It may be helpful to a caregiver who was unable to attend the visit.
- It is no different than bringing in a friend or relative into the room (It's actually a lot more objective and I only have to answer one person's questions.)
- Due to anxiety over illness, etc., patients only hear/remember about 25% of what a doctor says. An audio recording is a valuable resource for the patient if they want to review instructions or explanations they might have missed.
- It empowers a patient to a small extent, evening out the huge imbalance of power between physician and patient. Anything I can do to increase confidence in me in particular, and in the medical profession in general, is a plus.
- The patient has as much a right to an audio copy of our interaction as a paper copy of the chart.
- I have nothing to hide if I'm doing my best and meeting (hopefully exceeding) the standard of care.
- It protects me as well if a claim is made (I imagine alteration of audio recordings can be detected if necessary.
My previous malpractice carrier encouraged transparency in all things, and had no problems with this. But I never even thought to run this by the legal department of the hospital where I'm now employed, and if it's discouraged, I missed the memo.