Are you prepared for a video recording device in your exam room?

       During residency, one of my patients brought a tape recorder to his appointment.  It was a bulky old tape recorder, which was already antique technology 10 years ago.  He was older and wanted to record his appointment so he could remember every detail.  His children often called him and wanted an in-depth report of all of his medical visits.  He decided he would audio-record his appointments and send the tape to them instead. 

     His intent was good, but I could only imagine terrible outcomes.  Somehow, my voice would be used against me.  Maybe my documentation would not match my words.  Maybe it would be obvious on the tape that I forgot to ask a crucial question.  When he told me he wanted to tape our encounter, my mind almost immediately jumped to it being Exhibit A in a lawsuit.  

     Before he could plug in his tape recorder, I told him he could not tape his appointment.  (Looking back, I am not sure what made me think I had the power to say no.)  We compromised, and I wrote a letter to his children summarizing our visit and any tests or medications ordered.  He was satisfied with that, and this system worked for us throughout my residency.  

     My memory of this was brought to the fore today as I learned about the new SnapChat snapchat-3Spectacles, wearable glasses that go on sale soon.  Created by SnapChat itself, these trendy sunglasses are equipped with a small video camera.  After pushing a button on the frame, the glasses will take up to 30 seconds of video of whatever the wearer happens to be looking at.  Of course, Spectacles connects wirelessly with the wearer’s phone and can instantly post videos to the social media site.  

     There are other products on the market right now that can do similar things.  The iOn Snapcam weighs less than an ounce and is a 1.5 inch-wide square camera with the ability to take pictures or video.  It can clip to clothes and, at just a tap, start recording.  It can even live-stream for up to an hour!

     What does this have to do with healthcare?  Recent advances in technology have propelled many new ways to access healthcare, but these two products have the potential to be detrimental.  

     How long will it be until someone’s Spectacles video becomes admissible in court?  A simple tap of someone’s glasses, and 30 seconds of a full patient encounter could be taken out of context.  Plus, it could be posted to multiple social media sites as well.  What about the privacy rights of other patients around someone with these video recording devices?  If someone posts a video to their social media profile from a physician’s office lobby, other patients will likely be in those videos.  How will we protect  privacy of the other patients in those situations?  snapchat-1

     If you are a physician, would you recognize any of these social media video tools?  What about your staff?  Would you feel comfortable telling your patients to make sure they were not collecting video or live-streaming their appointment?  Do you have a written policy to provide patients about limiting video capture in the office?

     There are many rules and regulations that require healthcare providers to obtain very specific consents before using any type of image or video recording of our patients.  Protecting the privacy of our patients is both the law and our responsibility.  Being aware of the new video technologies and preparing for their use by our patients are increasingly more important parts of that responsibility.