Editorial: Beware patients armed with recording devices

Do you remember a time before computers?

Prior to their arrival in consulting rooms, people genuinely feared that GPs would spend all their time during appointments looking at screens rather than patients.

Sometimes it might feel as though computers demand too much eye time during consultations but patients seem to rarely complain about this and can you now imagine a consultation without a screen and keyboard?

In this week's GP, we reveal Medical Protection Society (MPS) advice that GPs cannot prevent patients from recording consultations and posting them on the internet.

GPs are right to be concerned by this development because, as has been pointed out, the next time you witness the recording of the consultation that you are undertaking it could form the basis of legal proceedings against you.

But to allow this to spur you to refuse to allow your patient to record the consultation is to forget three things.

Firstly, like it or not, times change (although not necessarily governments at the time of writing).

The rise in popularity of social media like blogging, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter is an example of how unashamedly confessional society is becoming and patients are free to do what they like with their medical records, however ill-advised you might think this is.

Secondly, the continuity of care GPs offer, the value with which patients prize them and the goodwill shown the profession by patients should ensure that it is better placed than any other to cope with the threats such intrusions could pose.

Thirdly, legal advice is that GPs have a duty to see to their patient's medical needs. The doctor should probably go ahead even if they have concerns about how the patient would like the consultation to be conducted, according to the MPS.

If you think this is a scenario in which you are never likely to find yourself, consider one thing: forewarned is forearmed.

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